It’s nice to be important, though more important to be nice

Walter Winchell

Yes, it’s nice to be nice.  However, could your manners be holding you back?

Have you ever said ‘sorry’ for something that didn’t need an apology in the first place, for instance, when someone else bumps into you?

Or have you been on the receiving end of someone saying it needlessly, to you – ‘Oh sorry Jane, are you ready for our meeting now‘?

Why Do we over-apologise?

Our upbringing could be the cause.  We are brought up with rules which we followed in order to be accepted by others.

In my book ‘Discover you innerGPS’ I discuss how these rules and early conditioning are transferred to us, by our parents, our teachers and society.  We have been carrying this conditioning around with us for years.  These form part of our roadmap on how to navigate life.

How many times do we compromise our TRUE SELF, in order to be accepted by others?

This conditioning can limit our own self-belief and confidence.  With a result, those limiting beliefs can become roadblocks for us as adults.

Limiting beliefs, like ‘I’m not good enough’; ‘I don’t deserve’, for instance.

We want to be accepted as children and also as adults. In the process, we can diminish ourselves in order to be accepted.  Apologising, reduces conflict and leads to us being more accepted by the adults around us!

What we say and how we say it, can reflect how we feel about ourselves.   How we communicate can reflect low self-esteem, a diminished sense of self-worth, an unconscious wish to avoid any possibility of criticism or disapproval – a need to be accepted!

I have fallen into this pre-set conditioning dilemma on many occasions, does any of this resonate with you?

I am not 100% responsible for creating this over-apologising, however I am 100% responsible for shifting it or changing it.

Our communication can impact our effectiveness in the workplace. 

When we correspond via texts and emails or in person, are we using apologetic phrases to sound ‘softer’ or ‘less bossy’?

Over-apologising and qualifying words – actually, just, maybe – take the accuracy and strength out of your language.  Such phrases can make you appear weak or ineffective to colleagues, which in turn may affect whether you are considered for new opportunities or even promotion.

Diluting your message:

In business, sometimes you can dilute your authority by saying ‘I’m no expert but…. Or ‘just thinking out loud…‘

By speaking more straightforwardly and clearly, you can showcase your skills and feel more confident in the process.

Sometimes when we are making a statement or being forward with a remark, we down grade it by putting in ‘I’m just wondering when you will have that report done Bill? ….  We soften it so as we don’t sound too bossy and again we can come across like we are apologising for asking!!

When we remove the apologetic approach, our question is ‘When will you have that report done Bill.  Your message is more direct and can still be said in a courteous way.

I say courteous, however I do not mean using an inflected tone or pitch at the end of a sentence.  You make a statement yet with your tone and pitch its said in a ‘questioning’ way  – it adds an invisible ‘question mark’ to your statement. As the speaker, you can sound unsure of your own authority. Again if you find yourself using this, look at what it’s bringing up for you internally.

Another way of coming across ‘smaller’ is to question ourselves in front of the other person ‘Am I clear enough here’………….. instead, put the listener as the subject matter – ‘Is this clear to you?’ ‘What are your thoughts’

Reduced confidence in you

Over-apologising can give the appearance of incompetence which can be annoying to your colleagues, can create doubt in people’s minds and reduces their confidence in you.  It can also corrode your self-image.

‘I’m sorry to disturb you, can I give you the report you were looking for’ – it may convey a lack of confidence and self-belief – what inner dialogue are you having with yourself that puts you down?

Being Needy

Sometimes an apology is a manipulative technique to extract acceptance or praise from the other person.  ‘Oh I’m sorry is this report okay?’ wanting the other person to compliment you.  If you are looking for this external validation, this may indicate that you are too critical of yourself.  The learning –  do not focus on other peoples perceptions of you, instead look at your own beliefs and values and improve these.


Taking Action

Put on your ‘detective’ cap.  Be on the look out for inappropriate uses of apologetic phrases in your written, spoken & body language.

Look at the situations/people that may ‘trigger’ your apologies and send this reflex into overdrive.  Take a mental note of these and set about taking responsibility.  That is, noticing that ‘my co-worker John, reminds me of my uncle and I am less sure of myself around him’.  John is not the issue – it’s your memory and experience around your uncle that needs clearing.  John is merely indicating that you have a limiting belief which needs to be cleared.

If you find yourself ‘defaulting’ to muted power – I know how it feels and I would like to share with you some approaches that work for me and many of my clients.

When you work internally at improving your self-confidence, self-esteem and start owning your own power, your language (body, written and verbal) will start reflecting this assertiveness!

Go Deep

I realise now that my  ‘over-apologising response’ to situations is my innerGPS inviting me to clear out old feelings and old conditioning I may have around situations.

By addressing this glitch, you can maintain your own true personality and transmit your message more effectively.


Parachutes are people, events or activities that can support you in getting to where you want to go!

Get yourself a CAB – a Communication Accountability Buddy who will gently point out when you are ‘giving away your power’.  Having your buddy support you with your written/verbal and non verbal body language can be a very effective step to you reclaiming your true power.

At first this can be a tricky. I often tell clients that while they are addressing their language, I am very happy to look over how they are presenting themselves verbally or in written form.



Apologetic language can be replaced with Effective Empowering Communication.

These strategies are to enhance your own presence – to stand in your own power and to ensure your message is received by the person you are speaking to.

Making these subtle changes will help to strengthen your conviction; reflect a more decisiveness and preparedness, which will impact your success.

Firstly – view you with soft eyes.

How do you eat an Elephant?

Yes, one bite at a time.  Take this new assertiveness, this returning to you, one step at a time.  Look to make small changes, celebrate these achievements, and keep moving forward.


Spoken Word

Start replacing unwarranted apologies with accurate statements to communicate your point.


No apologies, no caveats

You are entitled to your opinion – be direct.  Practice being assertive by giving your opinion in every gathering (social or business) you attend.   and place it into conversation without qualification.

Instead of phrases like ‘I’m sorry but’….. or ‘I just want to say’.  Instead say, ‘I see your viewpoint, however this is what I think…’

Show your knowledge and gain credibility – look for opportunities to get your expertise across in a meeting.  Hold your own til you finish speaking your point and if others try and but in, let them know that you haven’t finished – without saying sorry!


Apologies and lack of assertiveness muddy your message.  For instance, instead of saying “If you’re not too busy today, would it be possible for you to book that meeting room’, make the request directly by saying something like, “I need those reservations made by close of business today.”

Win Win Mindset

Be on the lookout for solutions that make you and others happy.  If there are several avenues you can take to proceed.  Ask the other person their likely ways forward and if one suits you, agree to take this.

‘NO’ is an Option

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to!  You do not need to take on work that may not be yours or you don’t have time for – simply say No.  Use ‘thank you’ when you can.  Thank you for thinking of me, however I will not have the time to do this for you.’

Be Decisive

Get into the habit of making decisions.  So what if you don’t mind where you go for the business lunch.  Make a decision, ‘The Granary is ideal for the business lunch, can you make a reservation there, thank you’.

Statement Endings

Own your statements, keep the ending strong.  Avoid the sound of a question mark at the end.  Instead of saying ‘We can schedule the meeting for 10am?  By removing the tone of the question mark, it can sound much stronger and definite – ‘We can schedule the meeting for 10am.


Getting your point across in an email is an essential business skill.

Within that email, you can show your expertise in a business and personable way.  It’s easy to fall into the ‘softening’ approach though it can make your message unclear.  In the written word, explain what you need specifically.

Even now, as aware as I am of the ‘apologetic’ undertones of conditioning, I still need to watch my spoken and written words.  When ever I am sending an email, I scan it for these undertones.  Those phrases that weaken your message… Just reaching out … Sorry for disturbing you….. Maybe…..

Body Language

Is it congruent to your strong spoken/written language?

  • Standing tall – occupy your space with pride!
  • A strong assured handshake
  • Maintaining eye contact
  • Smile confidently with lips and eyes.

Ignore negative mindsets

If others are uncomfortable with your new strength, that’s their issue – you are not responsible for their insecurities.

Let’s stop unconsciously sabotaging ourselves and communicate courageously and authentically.

Your colleagues will appreciate you being more clear and direct.

We are experts in our fields and when we can truly stand in our own power and own it – we can speak with clarity and command respect.

When I host workshops on this topic, I see people stepping out of the shadow of their conditioning and into their own power.  Seeing them speak from a place of authenticity and with the knowing that they can proceed and be successful is inspiring.

With effective empowering communication you will be seen as a confident, competent professional and the ideal candidate for that promotion!

Are you standing fully in your power?

If you would like to communicate more effectively though not sure if coaching is the right route for you – let’s have a chat.  Book your 15 minute complimentary call here.

Leave a Reply