Megan Grant

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Stop Apologizing in Business! Do This Instead

April 3, 2020

In a world where much of our communication relies on email and text messaging, we’ve had to learn how to talk to each other all over again. As an entrepreneur, choosing your words wisely is of utmost importance, as they’re a reflection of who you are as a person and a professional. Even if it goes against your nature, even if it feels really awkward, there’s one thing I urge you to stop doing in your communication with clients: Stop apologizing.

Let me explain why.

Why You Should Stop Apologizing

We apologize because we’re trying to smooth something over — even if we didn’t do anything wrong.

Of course, we mean well. But here’s the problem.

When you apologize, you’re acknowledging to the other person that you’re accepting blame or guilt for something. And if you didn’t do anything wrong, this can seriously backfire. Even psychology says that apologizing profusely can give people permission to treat you poorly. It’s a signal that you lack confidence and view yourself as ineffectual.

This can be especially damaging if it’s a false apology that you’re using to get a client to stop being mad at you. Apologizing shouldn’t be used as a means of avoiding conflict.

You have to remember that your clients are not your superiors. You are both business owners. Can you imagine them apologizing profusely to you for no reason at all? Probably not. So, stop apologizing to them.

I’d also like to point out that we ladies are especially bad about this. It’s not a sexist thing. It’s not a feminist thing. Studies have found that women apologize more than men . It seems to be that we differ in what we view as apology-worthy. In other words, much more often than men, women think they have something to apologize for.

Instead of Apologizing All the Time, Do This

Take it from the queen of apologizing (hi, me) — it’s not having the effect that you think it is.

To be very clear, I’m definitely not saying that apologizing is a bad thing or something you should avoid entirely. This also isn’t about proving a point to your clients or refusing to be the one who “caves.”

I’m telling you that if you say it out of habit, you need to cut back and choose different words.

When You Should Apologize

Here are a couple of examples of when I believe an apology makes sense.

When you make a mistake:

“I’m so sorry about the typo in that Facebook post. Won’t happen again!”

When you’re late for a scheduled meeting:

“I’m sorry I kept you waiting. My schedule got a little out of hand.”

In short, if you don’t pull your weight as a professional, apologize, acknowledge it, and maybe tell the client what you’ll do differently next time to avoid it.

When You Should NOT Apologize

Stop, please and thank you.

When you need to call or email a client with a question:

NO: “I’m so sorry for bugging you again!” or “I’m sorry to bother you.”

YES: “Hi Joe, quick question for you,” or “Hey Barbara, can you please clarify something for me?”

Why You Don’t Need to Apologize

They’re paying you to provide a service, and in order to do that, you had a question. There is nothing wrong with this, and the client won’t be offended. (If they are, find a new client. Lolz! But seriously.)

When you miss an unscheduled call:

NO: “I’m sorry I missed you. I was in another meeting.”

YES: “Hi Dan, I saw you called earlier. How can I help you?”

Why You Don’t Need to Apologize

It’s not reasonable to expect you to be available for random calls at all hours of the day. You’re working. If a client calls unannounced and you’re in the middle of a project or on another call or pooping, it’s okay. Stop apologizing, because you didn’t do anything wrong, and once again, you didn’t offend the client.

When the client offers feedback:

I used to be really bad about this. But now, when I get feedback, I acknowledge it and confirm I understand.

Email Apology Sample

Why You Don’t Need to Apologize

Did you technically do the task correctly but they simply want it done a different way? Okay then. No biggie!

One Final Note…

I want to leave you with this. After a client (or anyone) hears “I’m sorry” enough, it stops meaning anything. I used to have someone on my team (used to) who was amazing at apologizing but continued to screw up on a regular basis. I stopped caring that she was sorry. I just wanted her to fix it.

Know what I’m saying? Have you ever been in that position? Maybe it was with a toxic ex who was happy to apologize but never really changed. Don’t be that person.

If you made a genuine mistake, also make sure your client understands where you went wrong and how you’ll avoid this snag in the future. Don’t just ambush them with apologies.

This might sound inconsequential, but I can’t stress it enough. Words are important. Be mindful of how you communicate.

Psst! I’ve got a video on this, too.