An Easy Trick to Stop Apologising!

Have you ever met someone who kept apologising for every question or favour they asked? Perhaps you are that person and you can hear yourself saying "sorry" over and over again for basic and normal requests which really don't need an apology. It is annoying for everyone involved and usually, the person apologising is just in such a habit of doing it that a gentle "No need to apologise" or even "Please stop apologising" won't actually lead to any change.

I heard a great tip a few years ago which could help you escape this annoying habit, and lead to better relationships with colleagues, friends, and superiors. This tip helps avoid a weird power dynamic where you put yourself in the position of someone begging or being needy, and changes it into a collaborative, positive space. In my opinion, it not only helps others respect you more, but leads to you respecting yourself more.

Replace 'sorry' with 'thank you'

We know that replacing bad habits is easier than removing them completely, so every time you feel the urge to apologise for something unnecessarily, try to rephrase it as a thank you. This puts you in a better headspace, but people also feel a lot more comfortable accepting thanks than accepting unnecessary apologies. As said, it also turns a generally negative feeling and frames it positively. You're still showing gratitude without begging forgiveness for an everyday request.

Here are some examples:

Instead ofTry
Sorry for the inconvenienceThank you for your time
Sorry you had to wait so longThank you for your patience
Sorry to ask, but...Thanks for seeing me, would you mind telling me...
You helped me so much, sorryThank you for helping me so much

These are just a few examples. For me, "thank you for your time" was the most valuable and easy to implement in a variety of situations.

If you try to utilise this technique in your everyday life, you'll see that not only do people respond a lot better to your requests and explanations, but you'll also walk away feeling more like you collaborated, rather than grovelled.

Disclaimer: This advice does not apply for when you truly should apologise. If you hurt someone (even accidentally) or do someone wrong, you should apologise. The above is only applicable when you are in the unfortunate habit of apologising for normal requests.

Edidiong Asikpo's photo

This is definitely an important conversation to start. I honestly think a lot of people need to improve on this and read this article. Thanks for sharing Anna J McDougall.

Anna J McDougall's photo

Thanks Edidiong! I really appreciate your support.

Chris Nagy's photo

This is SO important! I've been seeing such a positive change since eliminating starting with "sorry to bother you" or similar. It subconsciously puts the one who says that into a "lower" class in both parties' minds IMO, needlessly. I've very rarely thought that someone was bothering me when they just DMed me a question, but them leading with "sorry" automatically triggers negative emotions in me subconsciously. If the question would indeed bother me however, saying sorry would not help anyways.

My default is that I want to help you when you turn to me, don't undermine it for yourself - and I think that applies to a lot of people. Don't ask the broadest questions tho, do some research and hone in on an exact problem. That's how you can get help effectively and that's how people will want to help you. Or at least that has been my meandering experience🙃

Luiz Filipe da Silva's photo

Your tips are really useful. Sometimes I realize that I apologize even though I do things that people like (lol). Thanks for sharing!

Anna J McDougall's photo

Haha yes! I've been there and even when you really 'hear yourself' it is so hard to break. Definitely keep practicing this tip: it is easier to start with written stuff (e.g. emails) and then integrate it into spoken communication.

Kieran Iyer's photo

It's a wonderful article, especially for those who struggle with it, this simple read can help make that conscious effort to bring that change into interactions. Also, it was an amazing event Anna J McDougall very insightful, especially with your lively, jolly and active presence packed with laughter 😂. I've also watched your session with Francesco and loved every second of it, 1 hour video seemed like blink of an eye 😁. Wish you the very best in all your future endeavors. Stay healthy and safe ♥