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Saying NO to Apologizing

Ladies: let’s talk woman to woman about a pet peeve of mine. You know what I’m talking about. We all do it (myself included), and we’ve probably been made aware of it. But why is it so hard to stop?

I am fortunate to have a lot of women in my life. I run an all female marketing firm; I have a team of over 140 makeup mavens; I’ve got a great circle of lady besties, and I’m raising three girls. I love women for all that we are, all that we bring to the table, and all of the magic that we possess. But … we need to stop apologizing. 

As you’re reading this, you’re either nodding in agreement or shrinking in your chair, but let me share some examples of what I mean:

It’s cold outside. Young girl apologizes for the weather.

Two people are meeting. One person is late, and the young woman, who is not late and was there on time, apologizes.

A man is on his phone, not paying attention and bumps into a young lady at a restaurant. Young lady apologizes. 

Larger stature man comes late into the room and sits next to a young woman. Young woman apologizes for being in his way and scoots herself and her belongings out of his way to minimize her space in the room and make room for him. 

A young woman needs to speak to her boss and apologizes for knocking on the door and having a question.

During a presentation, a young woman says the wrong word and says sorry profusely.

A young girl’s boss critiques her work and suggests a different approach, the young girl apologizes. 

When young girl is eating her lunch, she apologizes.

Friend does something nice for young girl and young girl apologizes.

The list goes on and on. These self-deprecating behaviors need to stop. All of these instances above do not lend themselves to an apology. They don’t! And the young girl in these examples didn’t do anything to say sorry for.

If you apologize unnecessarily, it’s a sign of weakness, a sign of lacking confidence and the fastest way to have to be on defense. Not to mention, the person you’re apologizing to instantly associates you with wrong-doing, even when you did absolutely nothing wrong.

This should go without saying, but if you genuinely made a mistake, hurt someone or did something wrong … you should apologize. Of course. Owning up to a mistake, especially when it’s uncomfortable, is a huge sign of maturity and also part of being a good human. Taking responsibility for your actions is not what we’re talking about here … because you don’t need to take responsibility for things you didn’t do.

How do we get out of this eternal sorry cycle? Awareness is key. Hold space for the situation and try these alternatives instead:

The “Thank you”: Instead of saying, “Sorry I’m late.” Say, “Thank you for waiting for me.” Instead of saying sorry to your boss when they provide feedback, try, “Thank you so much for those suggestions.”

This flips the script and changes something that could be perceived as a negative mistake into a moment for you to express your gratitude and appreciation. Switching from a negative “I’m sorry” to a positive “thank you” will also allow you to move through the slip up faster without having to dwell on an error.

The Pause: This especially applies in business settings when you’re presenting information or an idea where it’s completely natural and acceptable to think and pause. We don’t need to fill the pause with an apology. Switch from, “These stats show us that… sorry… most traffic was driven to your website from YouTube this month” to a simple, “These stats show us that {pause} most traffic was driven to your website from YouTube this month.” See the difference? Don’t apologize for thinking.

The “Excuse Me”: Ladies, repeat after me: If you are going through a door, entering a room, needing to walk through a crowd of people, need to say something … DO NOT APOLOGIZE. You should not say that you’re sorry for your existence. Say, “Excuse me” if that makes you feel better or if you need to get someone’s attention, but oftentimes a smile and “thank you” will suffice.

The Broaden Your Stance: If you sit next to me on airplane, I will not shrink into my space so you can have more room. If you stand next to me in line, I will confidently hold my space in the room, without shrinking or letting your existence spill over into mine. Ladies, no matter your size, no matter the size of others in the room, hold your stance and your presence.

The Self Acceptance: If you’re loud and funny or soft spoken and chic, OWN IT. If you’re driven as hell and love kicking some butt at work, BE PROUD OF THAT. If you’re awesome in the kitchen and enjoy making your home comfortable and cozy, LOVE THAT ABOUT YOURSELF. Whoever you are, do not apologize.

The Empathetic Approach: If someone is sharing something difficult in their lives, it’s common to show sympathy and say, “I’m sorry.” Sympathy is often a way to make the other person feel bad about themselves. Instead of the sorry, say something like, “Wow. That must have been really hard.” And just hold space for them. Building empathy allows them to feel validated in their own space and feeling heard is invaluable.

Switching long ingrained habits are hard, and this is one that is especially difficult. Even though I’ve been preaching this message for years to my teams, I still catch myself slipping into the unnecessary “I’m sorry.” It’s a process and awareness of the problem truly is the best first step.

One thing is for certain: we’ve got to stop apologizing and start moving into acceptance and confidence. The shame behind these teachings should be altered to focus more on acceptance and love. As for the three young minds in my home, you better believe they’ll be entering the world know when to apologize and when to just be.

What can you stop apologizing for right now? Have you tried replacing your “I’m sorrys” for any of these?


Rachel Hollis, aka my future bestie, is releasing her book, Girl, Stop Apologizing on March 12, and I cannot wait!! It’s a sequel to one of my favs for all women to read: Girl, Wash Your Face. I’ve already reserved a copy of my own … grab yours here!

Heads up: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through, order and purchase. As always, I only blog about and recommend products I use and love myself. All opinions are my own. 

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Ashley T
Ashley T

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1 Comment

  1. sandra scott
    February 10, 2019 / 2:22 pm

    This is a great article! i have always noticed and shared with other women that if you observe closely, most men in the workplace do not apologize. I have said we need to observe and learn from them because they do not do it, so why are we doing it? There are some great tools is this article. thanks for sharing!

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