How women business owners can stop over-using "I'm Sorry"
How Women Business Owners Can Stop Overusing "I'm Sorry"
November 14, 2017

How Women Business Owners Can Stop Overusing "I'm Sorry"

In life, everyone makes mistakes. As a female business owner, it is respectable to apologize for your errors and to learn from them. But do you find yourself saying “I’m sorry” for actions that don’t warrant an apology, like asking a question or speaking up in a meeting? If so, you are not alone. Many women business owners don’t want to be viewed as abrasive in the workplace, so they apologize incessantly. Unfortunately, by doing this, they come off as self-deprecating or lacking in self-confidence. It’s crucial for women in business to stop apologizing and start owning the fact that their contributions are valued – so that their professional strengths can shine through.

In this post, we’ll share four common situations in which female business owners apologize, and suggest alternative language to use instead.

1. Asking a question

Do you find yourself saying “I’m sorry” if you have a question during a meeting? You might feel as if your inquiry is a burden to your peers, or you feel guilty for slowing down the pace of the meeting. This shouldn’t be the case!  If you ask a question, it shows that you are interested in the subject of the meeting.

According to Forbes, women apologizing for asking a question highlights the confidence gap between men and women. As an alternative to prefacing your question with “I’m sorry,” consider saying something like “Let’s go back to the previous slide. I want to know how you arrived at…” This phrasing shows you that are not afraid to speak up when an idea is unclear, and that you are intelligently keeping up with the discussion.

2. Making an alternative suggestion

There are times when as a female business owner, you may have an exceptional idea. It may not be the most popular idea, or the way things have been done previously. Still, if you feel strongly about it, it’s important to speak up.

Don’t say, “I’m sorry, but instead I think we should try…”. This shows that you think you are inconveniencing your team by coming up with an idea that could contribute to the success of the business. Instead, you could say “I have an idea that will work well…” and explain your strategy in a confident manner. If you want others to believe in you, you need to demonstrate personal conviction in your ideas!

3. Saying no

Everyone has their limits. If your schedule is booked, and someone requests your assistance, simply say “no.” You don’t owe them an apology, or an explanation as to why you are busy.

Consider saying something like, “My schedule is booked, but I would be happy to help another time.” This response is polite, but makes it clear that you are not willing to overbook your schedule.

4. Asking for a few minutes of someone’s time.

Time is precious, so it can feel as though you are inconveniencing someone when you ask them to meet with you. This shouldn’t be the case, since running a successful business requires collaboration and clear communication.

If you have a pressing concern, idea or question, and you need to ask for a few minutes of a co-worker’s time, don’t apologize. Instead, explain why you need to meet with them, and express your gratitude. People like to hear that you appreciate their time. This will allow you to connect with that individual, without an unnecessary apology!

Moving forward

Apologizing in the right context shows that you are an emotionally intelligent leader. However, as a female in business, it’s important to be wary of overusing the phrase “I’m sorry” when it is not needed. If you didn’t do something wrong, don’t apologize.

The takeaway message for female business leaders is to avoid language that could lead peers into thinking you are insecure, and embrace language that shows that you are a self-assured leader.

Fora Financial

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Fora Financial is a working capital provider to small business owners nationwide. In addition, the Fora Financial team provides educational information to the small business community through their blog, which covers topics such as business financing, marketing, technology, and much more. If you’d like to see a topic covered on the Fora Financial blog, or want to submit a guest post, please email us at [email protected].