Business isn’t life. In life, you will have to apologize for your actions, if your transgressions warrant it. But most mistakes in business are just that, mistakes. They weren’t intentional, they didn’t lead to grievous harm or loss of life, so they rarely rise to the level where an apology is required.

My response to people at work who say “sorry” is that unless they ran over my dog, they don’t have to say sorry.

Loser (aka crutch) words

Furthermore, people have a nasty habit of using the word “Sorry” as a place-holder for truly Acknowledging the problem, taking Responsibility for it and Committing to resolve it, otherwise known as ARR. Many of these people think that by simply saying “sorry”, they can use that as a general purpose, get-out-of-jail free card that will at once absolve themselves of having to take responsibility let alone take steps to commit the mistake won’t happen in the future.

The one thing I notice about people who reflexively say “sorry” a lot, is that they constantly make the same mistakes over and over. Using this rhetorical crutch, people immediately short circuit the process of introspection that is necessary to take responsibility and ultimately improve, grow and develop. I refer to this as “Screwing down” vs “Screwing up”

This is why I term the word “Sorry” a “loser word” and why I discouraged its use from use by people who work in any of my organizations

If you want to work/live/act “as if” you are a professional, someone worth to be hired, promoted etc, it is important that you act “as if” you are that person now, which includes talking like one. By taking responsibility for your actions vs just reflexively apologizing in a knee-jerk fashion, you will demonstrate that you are such a quality person.

I wrote an article about a person who made more mistakes than you could ever imagine, but never apologized once and eventually met with success and was promoted.

Words vs actions

It seems counter intuitive, at least at first, that a manager, boss, leader wouldn’t accept someone saying “sorry” as a response to a mistake, and even less so that they would prohibit the person from apologizing in the first place. But if your goal is to actually change and improve, apologizing actually is counter-productive because it inhibits that positive progression.

I was broken of the habit of saying “sorry” in the military. The first time I apologized for a mistake I made was the last time. I missed my crutch at first but learned to appreciate not having it, over time. No longer did I fall back on some word, thinking that just by throwing it out would negate any mistakes and preclude you from having to take responsibility for them. I started to take ownership of my mistakes and my vernacular changed from “sorry” to …

  • It won’t happen again
  • Consider this resolved
  • I’ll commit to address this problem

Giving up on your addiction to reflexively using the word “sorry” is a gift you can give yourself and a sign of professional maturity. By focusing on actions like Acknowledging, taking Responsibility and committing to Resolving the issue at hand vs just throwing words at problems, you not only will diffuse the current situation but also make strides to ensure less of them will happen in the future.