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Say This, Not That: 5 Ways to Stop Apologizing at Work

Topics: Career Advice

As an introvert in the office, I constantly feel the need to say “sorry” every time someone has to go out of their way for me. This is not only a problem in the workplace, but a problem outside the workplace, too. Think about it, fellow introverts: do you remember the last time you were at a restaurant and you had to ask the waiter to fix your order because they gave you chicken pot pie instead of turkey pot pie? Let’s be real – you probably felt bad about asking them to fix it, and you probably apologized to your waiter. The next time you’re in a situation like this, especially at work, follow these tips to help yourself speak more articulately and positively.


(Photo Credit: recoverling/Flickr)

Thank You vs. I’m Sorry

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Although commonly used interchangeably by introverts, these terms do not actually mean the same thing. Did someone hold the door for you when you were walking into the conference room? Don’t apologize – just tell them thank you. Did you let a glitter bomb explode in your office? You can probably apologize for that.

But when it comes down to it, over-apologizing does two things. First, it means that people are literally going to get sick of hearing you apologize. Secondly, it means that when the time comes and you actually do need to apologize for a legitimate goof up, it’s not going to have the same impact – because you’re always saying sorry.

When You’re Running Late
If you live anywhere that requires any kind of commute to work, longer than 10 minutes, you probably have shown up late to meeting or two in your time. Being late happens, and it’s not always completely your fault. Either way, whenever you show up late for a meeting and others are waiting for you, please don’t apologize for “always being late.” That makes being late sound like a habit, and it could make your co-workers feel like that is acceptable to you. Instead, start out with thanking your meeting-goers for their patience while you were running late. Acknowledging that they were waiting for you will ease the tension and allow you to move on to the business at hand. 

When You Have Word Vomit

Perhaps it’s because I’m an introvert, but I feel like I suffer from word vomit a lot. If you were curious, word vomit is defined as “a point in a conversation where you say something that you didn’t really mean to.”

We’ve all experienced word vomit at one point or another, and knowing how to handle it can make life easier for us all. So, the next time you ramble off some mumbo-jumbo that kind of made sense in your head but didn’t really make sense when you said it out loud, don’t apologize and say you aren’t making a lot of sense. The thing is, most people you talk to at work are (I hope) pretty smart humans, and even if you aren’t able to 100 percent communicate your thought, they can still get a general idea of what you’re saying. A better way to respond is, “Thank you for understanding me.”

When You Feel Like a Total Bore
When your co-workers take interest in hanging out with you, whether that’s during your lunch break or for coffee, its likely because they are genuinely interested in you – because you’re an interesting person! I know, I know: you don’t think you are, but if that were the case, why would your co-worker take time to hang with you in the first place? Your co-workers want to get to know you, so don’t throw them off by apologizing and telling them how boring you are. Instead, be open and let them in a little bit. And when it’s over, thank them for spending time with you. That way, they leave the conversation feeling connected, and not sorry for your sad and boring life.

When You Start Rambling to a Co-worker
In the workplace, it’s understood that when a co-worker needs to ramble, you listen to the ramble. Depending on what you’re rambling about, the conversation can seem pretty one-sided, especially if the other person is on a different team or isn’t familiar with the current subject of the rambling. Either way, that co-worker is giving you their time and their ears. Instead of apologizing post-ramble with a dismissive, “Sorry, I’m just rambling,” try thanking the person for listening. Not only is it the polite thing to do, it makes your co-worker feel like you trust them to hear your struggles and hardships.

Tell Us What You Think!
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Brian Bledsoe
Brian Bledsoe

I thought you’d find this interesting relative to our conversation earlier this week.


An Introvert
An Introvert

I don’t think you understand what it means to be an introvert. According to“One whose thoughts and feelings are directed toward oneself.” Being an introvert probably wouldn’t cause an individual to feel the need to apologize. Habit, insecurity and shyness might.

traffic queen
traffic queen

Raise the bar- I can leave 15 minutes or 2 hours early-it really doesn’t matter if there is a truck crash on the 405 and lanes are shut down. you obviously don’t live in Southern California.


“raise the bar”, while an admirable sentiment, the notion that there is no excuse for being late is exceedingly naive. While I am never late when I can control it, I will not walk out on a meeting with my boss or our CIO that runs a couple of minutes over to get to another meeting with peers on time. That is not disrespect it is acknowledgement of a chain of command.

raise the bar
raise the bar

You are always responsible for running late. No excuses. Plan better, be early. It is better to be 15 minutes early than 1 minute late. It shows disrespect to not be on time to appointments.

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