Quit Saying You're Sorry


Women need to take “I’m sorry” out of their vocabulary almost all of the time. Some men do too, but women are 48 times more likely to overuse it. {I made that number up, but I notice it in women all the time, in men hardly ever.}


But aren’t we supposed to apologize, you say? And am I even Canadian, you ask? Yes, and yes. I am Canadian and I certainly apologize or say I’m sorry when I’ve screwed up, have offended someone, or feel genuinely bad for someone. Beyond that, I’ve made it a practice for almost 5 years to not say I’m sorry, whether it’s in an email or in person. And it’s life-changing.


I'm sorry but...

I cringe when I hear someone start a sentence with “I’m sorry, but…”. Or even worse: “Well I’m sorry, but…”. Bonus cringe for saying “sooorry”. If there’s a but, then you’re not really sorry. It’s only used to mask an irritation or a way to try to justify something that doesn’t need justification. Most of the time it’s the response to a verbal attack, an irate customer, a nagging spouse, a mansplaining douche, or something along those lines. It’s like a passive-aggressive battle tactic. You offer a bit of appeasement while preparing to strike.


Except that it’s a shitty battle tactic because your opponent already knows what’s coming: a reaction to whatever they threw at you.


What to say instead

If you feel an “I’m sorry, but…” coming on, pause and take a breath. Most of the time you can simply drop it and carry on with your response. Taking a moment to become aware of what you’re about to say and why makes a difference. 


Shift your perspective from being reactive and defensive to proactive and collaborative: 

  • Really? I’d like to hear/learn more.
  • That’s surprising. I’ve never thought of it this way.
  • Interesting. I’d like to share my opinion as well.
  • What makes you say that?
  • I’m not sure I know enough about this to have an opinion.
  • You seem to know a lot about this. Tell me more.
  • I don’t agree, what do you think about this…

I'm sorry you feel that way

If you’re resorting to “I’m sorry you feel that way.” then you might as well just tell them to eff off. Because if you were actually sorry you’d say something like “I’m sorry you’re in pain.” or “I’m sorry you have to go through this.” or “I’m sorry you’re scared.”.


“I’m sorry you feel that way.” is usually a reaction to not getting the feedback you want, your request being turned down, someone having an opinion that doesn’t jive with your values, or someone criticizing you. And guess what? That’s life, buttercup. People say things we don’t want to hear and we don’t always get what we want. Whether someone else is a douchebag about it is none of your business. You take the high road and move on.


What to say instead

What’s better than saying “I’m sorry you feel that way”? Here’s a list, pick one that fits your situation:

  • Alright. {Yes, that’s a complete sentence.}
  • Duly noted.
  • Thanks for your feedback.
  • I’ll have to think about that.
  • Thanks for letting me know.
  • That’s too bad but understandable.
  • I appreciate your perspective.
  • That’s definitely food for thought.
  • Let’s agree to disagree, thanks for your input.
  • I hear you. And I’d like to talk some more about it after sleeping on it.

Moving on

In the end, saying “I’m sorry, but…” when you’re trying to make a point only weakens your position. Even if you think you’re putting more emphasis on your statement, you’re not. And here’s the thing: you don’t have to qualify your opinion. You don’t have to make yourself small and appease for a chance to be heard. You are here to take a seat at the table and make your point.


From this day forward, I challenge you to notice your patterns and drop the passive-aggressive BS-apology. In emails ~ today. Don’t send out another email that starts with “I’m sorry, but…” Own your opinion, respect other opinions, and stand your ground. In person ~ it’s a work in progress. Start by noticing your patterns. Try some of the suggestions from the list above and see what fits. Simply drop the “I’m sorry, but…” and carry on without it. Don’t say anything at all ~ you don’t have to reply just to say something. Keep working on it and within 2-3 months your patterns will change. And with it, your confidence, your life, and your business.