Have you ever been in a restaurant and been served the wrong meal? Or ordered the steak well done and it comes out rare? We have all been in a situation like this when someone else has made a mistake and we feel badly. Why is it that women often say they are sorry for someone else’s error? Apologizing in these circumstances can stem from a lack of confidence. Women fear being wrong and are afraid to speak up.  We want to be liked and often apologize even when we have not done anything wrong.  I am sorry are powerful words if you have done something wrong. If you have not done anything wrong, “I am sorry” demonstrates a lack of confidence before you have stated what you really want to say.

Here are some simple tools and phrases to empower you to apologize in a way that is direct and respectful.

You can be direct without offending anyone.

You can offer feedback, be positive and remain well liked. How does this sound? “Thank you for bringing out the food in a timely fashion. I ordered the steak rare and it came well done. Can you please ask the cook to make another steak for me?” Or “This dish looks beautiful. However it is not what I ordered. Can you please ask the kitchen to prepare the meal I requested?”

Do not apologize unless you have done something wrong. 

Think of a scenario when you get on an airplane and someone is in your seat. Women often apologize for another person’s mistake.

Let’s try this on for size:

“I am so sorry but you are in my seat. I hope you do not mind but can you please switch to your seat so I can sit down? vs.

“I am in seat 34A. Can you please shift over a seat while I sit down?”

WHICH ONE IS MORE DIRECT?

It is fine to say you do not agree. Just say why.

Imagine a meeting with a number of diverse opinions. You want to be heard and you do not agree with the majority. Instead of saying, “I am sorry but I do not agree,” eliminate the “I am sorry” and say, “I do not agree with the majority because…” If you tell your audience why you do not agree, then the focus is on your opinion not on you being contrary.

Let them apologize

If someone makes a mistake and says they are sorry, say thank you. Do not say, “There is no need for you to apologize!”