Two Amazing Ways to Stop Saying Sorry When You Really Don’t Need To
In ascending order of professional applicability.
Even though Panteen and the rest of the internet thinks only women say sorry all the time, I know that’s not true because my first trick I learned from a dude. If you haven’t seen the Panteen commercial, well. Here.
In my first job out of college, I was living in an apartment I couldn’t afford. I knew I couldn’t afford it because most of my friends in the Northern Virginia high rise were lawyers and I wasn't. I also knew I couldn’t afford it because I had no discretionary income until I finally moved out. Anyway, one of my lawyer friends was a nice guy. (you know how it goes)
Anyway, he said he used to say sorry all the time. And when he noticed I did it, he told me was going to pass along a little tip his friend (also a guy, who also said gratuitous “Sorry”s all the time) told him to help him break the habit. He said: every time you get the urge to say “Sorry” just say “F*ck you” instead. It’ll cure ya real quick. First, it teaches you to be more aggressive and less “nice guy” like. And second it will make you aware of how much you say it, which will show you how inappropriate most of your “sorry”s really are.
I probably still say sorry too much. But at least I laugh sometimes when I do it. (I’m really bad about saying “sorry” instead of “excuse me.” e.g., when I’m trying to get out of a movie theater seat, I’m just like, sorry! sorry! sorry everyone! Then I think how funny would it be if I were like, f*ck you, f*ck you, f*ck all of you! I have to pee! makes me laugh every time.)
Now the more professionally useful one. As in, you can use it at work or in polite company. It is called “contrasting” and I got it from Crucial Conversations. It is useful when somebody misunderstands you or overreacts to something you said that wasn’t actually (objectively) inappropriate. Let's say you were trying your hardest to stand up for yourself and then it blew up in your face. (sucks). This will come in handy because you can use this anytime you haven’t done anything wrong even though somebody reacted like you did (oversensitive little baby). If you have nothing to apologize for, you could do the awful, “I’m sorry I upset you!” thing; but DON’T! Instead, you use contrasting.
Contrasting consists of two parts, a "don’t part" and a "do part." The "don’t part" is where you’d say what you don’t think. Basically counter whatever they misunderstood or whatever they are stating or implying in their overreaction. “I don’t think you are an incompetent boss who needs someone to tell you how to do your job.” Or “I don’t think you are terrible husband and father!” Or “The last thing that I wanted to communicate was that I think you are a miserable coworker."
Then you provide what you do think. “In fact, I don’t think there is anyone as knowledgeable of X in this entire state.” or “I can’t imagine anybody else I’d rather be raising our children with.” or “I think your work on this project has been nothing short of amazing.”
You’re not apologizing. You are clearing the air. And you are hopefully making them feel better so you can go on to have a productive conversation.