At a recent meeting sitting next to me was a Director level woman. She had some great insight and ideas. As the meeting ensued, I began to notice that every time this leader of women spoke, she said “sorry” first. Having known the challenge of finding that moment to share my ideas, without interrupting or seeming aggressive, I felt for her. I wanted to interrupt, and ask her what she thought just so she wouldn’t have to apologize again.

How often do you say sorry in a work day? “Sorry to bother you, but”, “sorry, the fed-ex guy hasn’t delivered that package”, “Sorry, I have a question”, etc. We use the word sorry all too frequently, and it may be lowering people’s opinions of us. When we start with sorry or excuse me, we don’t show confidence in our thoughts. The people we are talking to may have an automatic switch that flips when they hear sorry. It might put them in a higher more righteous position. Will this position be favorable for the idea you wanted to share? Not often.

It is not always easy to find the time to break into a conversation and share ideas. It is not easy to believe in yourself enough (and your idea) to warrant sharing it. I can definitely attest that it is not easy to get your thoughts across without feeling that you are rude or intrusive. I do believe that to be a respected leader, you need to find your voice. It may be as simple as starting with a positive statement to replace “sorry”. Here are some quick examples.

Try these:

  • Instead of saying: “I am sorry I can’t find it”: Try, “Thank you for your patience”
  • Instead of saying “sorry to interrupt”: Try, “I would like to add”
  • Instead of saying “sorry do you have a minute”: Try, “Do you have a minute”
  • Instead of saying “sorry you were stuck in traffic”: Try, “How frustrating you were stuck in traffic”
  • Instead of saying “I’m sorry I don’t understand”: Try, “I appreciate your work on this but I don’t understand”


I will be trying these out, and I hope you will too. Let me know what success and failure you have. Yes, failure! Get out there and fail. The only way to learn is to try out different ideas, see how they work and adjust! No one ever became the best at anything without falling and trying again. So get out there and try!