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As women, we’ve been told repeatedly that we should stop apologizing so much at work. Apologize too much, the narrative goes, and it’ll undermine your credibility, make you look weak, or diminish people’s perception of you.

There is such a thing as an unnecessary apology, like asking for clarity in a meeting (“Sorry, could you explain that again”) or pausing to take notes (“Sorry, just making a note to myself”). Being mindful of those instances is a good thing, and cutting out those apologies that slip out when we’ve done nothing wrong may help us feel more self-respect.

But some of the advice on not apologizing goes a bit too far; it doesn’t stop with the times when we’ve done no wrong, but instead extends to times when we are at fault, albeit in sometimes minor ways. Rather than taking responsibility for our infractions, such advice suggests reframing fault in a way that expresses gratitude for the other parties involved.

Late for a meeting? Forget “I’m sorry”; try “Thank you for waiting for me.”

Mistakenly leave some important info out of an email? Skip the “my apologies” line, and simply state the previously neglected information.

Miss a deadline? Try “thank you for your patience.” (When I receive emails like that, they often find me in a very impatient state.)

But this “no apologies” mentality neglects an important consideration: the other person.


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