“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”
– Benjamin Franklin
Here’s a little secret for creating the life and business you want: STOP apologizing. Stop beating yourself up for wanting what you want and declaring it out loud.
The week following the LWP tri-annual practice enhancement retreats, our firm CCI calls are full of energy. Everyone has a crystal-clear understanding that, if we just stay intentionally focused on our Top 5 from our Money Plan™, we will launch our practice into the business we have been striving for. There is no doubt in our minds that we will get there. And we know how we will get there and who is doing what to get us there. But the following month, we notice there’s a bit less gas in the proverbial tanks. Folks show up to the calls explaining that their #1 Money Plan item isn’t in full swing, and we begin to hear versions of why: “I’ve been trying to get an update on where we are with getting the brochure out there, but Sarah is behind with drafting and I’m feeling maybe I put too much pressure on the team.” Or, “Our goal was five Medicaid applications for November, but I’m seeing that I don’t understand the MMMNA entirely so I should get that down before I start walking into nursing homes.”
The above scenarios are all versions of Apologizing.
It’s that simple. It’s the “human stuff” that stops us. It’s our past, habits, patterns, lack of rules of engagement, and our lack of accountability and the freedom to speak and act honestly. Realizing and correcting this tiny little secret will create the life and business you want. Getting stuck in the apology vortex shows up in various ways, not always in the verbal format of “Sorry.” You’ll see it more often than not in these situations and ways of being:
- Habit: Many of us were raised to be polite and put others first. Parents who teach taking responsibility for any problems or issues that come up, or who teach that apologizing is a form of politeness, will often breed over-apologizers. Sometimes a child will learn this just by witnessing one parent say “sorry” too much to others. This typically shows up with a pre- and post-qualifier of “I’m sorry” with really no statement or justification after it. These words just come out before and after almost every statement they make. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t find that funny.” They walk past you in the hall and say “I’m sorry” and you’re not even sure why or for what.
- Self-Defeat: I don’t feel like I’m good enough, so I’m going to make sure you know I’m aware of it but have a plan to turn it around. Maybe you show up carrying an extra 40 pounds when, at the last retreat, you were down 20. So before you can even get the hellos and hugs out, you protect yourself from judgment by making an apology about who you are and who you are not. This usually shows up with a pre-qualifier along the lines of “I’ve been so busy….”
- Seeking Reassurance: You need to get community input before you take action. The idea was great at the time we declared it. I was clear on what was being asked of me and what I needed to do, but once I got back to my desk, it all went out the window. I began to second-guess myself and became paralyzed.This usually shows up with a pre-qualifier of, “Well, I needed to double-check with you before I started, because this one thing wasn’t totally clear….
- Fear of Conflict: We are clear in the beginning about what we want. Everyone is nodding their heads in agreement and excitement. Yet when we meet the following week, they have done very little. I want to explode (and I have in the past, but the whole team shut down and I was the bad guy). They are working on so many things and doing some great stuff in other areas, so I should just let this one go until next week. Let them catch up on their work and bring it up next week.This usually shows up with a pre-qualifier of “I don’t mean to complain but….”
People will persistently test your apology meter. Quite often it’s a byproduct of their own “stuff” when it comes to pursuing (or not) their own BHAGS (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). Don’t get caught up in living your life through the lens of others’ habits and limiting beliefs. Most often they are completely unaware of them.
Lori Deschene, author of the “Tiny Wisdom” eBook series, said, “While we can never know other people’s intentions, we can recognize that our words influence our state of mind – and apologizing when we’ve done nothing wrong needlessly creates guilt and undermines our confidence. It can also create an imbalance in our relationships, since it tells other people we think we are always responsible for any potential conflict or miscommunication; and also sends the message that we’re more interested in being agreeable than being honest.”
Today, if you find yourself apologizing repeatedly, ask yourself, “Did I actually do something that sincerely requires an apology?” If not, ask, “Do I really want to communicate that I think I did?”
Let me know how you make out; I would love to hear from you.
Molly L. Hall, Co-Founder, Lawyers with Purpose, LLC, and author of Don’t Be a Yes Chick: How to Stop Babysitting Your Boss, Transform Your Job and Work with a Dream Team Without Losing Your Sanity or Your Spirit in the Process.