There is so much debate lately about the “I’m sorry”.
“It’s time for women to stop apologizing.”
“Stop apologizing, start thanking.”
“Sorry. I’m not sorry.”
I agree, we don’t want to use the term carelessly.
But are we forgetting that saying “I’m sorry” can actually help in some cases?
Saying you are sorry, is called apologizing.
When you apologize, you’re telling someone that you’re sorry for the hurt you caused, even if you didn’t do it on purpose. People who are apologizing are also saying that they will do better next time.
Now please, don’t get me wrong!
I’m not suggesting that you walk around apologizing for everything that is happening around you. In fact, we as women tend to apologize WAY. TOO. MUCH.!! We misuse the term “I’m sorry” when in fact we really mean “excuse me”, “pardon me”, or when we are simply interjecting to offer our point of view.
Ladies, stop doing that!
What I’m referring to is the real “I’m sorry.” It’s when you’ve done something that didn’t quite land as you’d predicted at work (or any place else for that matter!), and when the result was less than optimal.
It’s for those situations where you are actually…well, … sorry.
Not long ago, I was in this situation exactly. A recent customer of mine approached my manager directly, because they were dissatisfied with my interactions during our (very!) intense pricing negotiations. In my twenty years of being an Account Executive, I have to say that has happened to me a total of … well, ZERO times in the past.
Needless to say when I found out, I was completely devastated, terrified, and anxious about the situation. My immediate reaction was to get incredibly defensive and blame everyone else but myself. I accused the client of being misinformed. I blamed the timing of the deal. I made excuses for why they were under the wrong impression. But the reality is that “perception is reality” and in this case, the reality is that I had clearly disappointed my client.
I was embarrassed. This was most definitely not great for my ego. I was initially very concerned with what my manager was thinking and how I could talk my way out of this horrible situation, quickly.
But reality set in, and I knew I had to deal with the situation – regardless of how unpleasant. How could I turn this into a learning experience and try to learn from the situation?
Well, for starters, “I’m sorry.”
I approached my manager with these two simple words. Then, I listened to his advice. We collaborated on positive feedback and what we might do to reverse the situation. Could I perhaps use this opportunity to understand our pricing model and the revenue contribution margins better so that I may have provided an initial price quote that could have better benefited both parties and provided a clearer path for resolution? Perhaps, yes.
Did I love that I was in this particular situation? Absolutely, undeniably, NO.
Did I learn from the situation? Yes.
Did I benefit from saying “I’m sorry.”? Yes.
I did find our conversation to be incredibly helpful and one that I am certain was a teachable moment for me. We were able to talk candidly, and you can be sure I will never make that mistake – ever again.
But then I did something that I’m sure is the cause of the whole “I’m sorry” debate to begin with. I continued to apologize over and over again for my mistake. Until my manager finally said “I get it. Now stop saying sorry.” To which I finally thought, “thank you for being patient when I make a mistake.” Period. End of story.