The 5-Step Plan to Stop Saying "I’m Sorry"

Regain your power, confidence, and authority with this plan to stop apologizing when you shouldn’t.

Posted on | By Blanca Cobb
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Blanca Cobb Explains the S.O.R.R.Y. Plan (2:47)

Many women say “I’m sorry” as a fix to any problem, whether they’re at fault or not. Here’s a list of examples when women tend to say it: asking someone to repeat what they said, making a request, feeling like an imposition, asking a question, and being assertive. The overriding theme in these examples is that an apology isn’t required or necessary. Perhaps you’ve become accustomed to apologizing as a way to be polite. Yet, unknowingly you’re sabotaging your power, confidence, and authority. Apologizing without a legitimate reason and apologizing too frequently makes you appear weak and less confident. Which is the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve when you apologize.

To regain your power, confidence, and authority, here’s a five-step plan to stop saying “I’m sorry.”

Step 1: Save Your “I’m Sorry”

To stop saying sorry for everything, you have to understand the situations when saying sorry is warranted. First, save your apologies for when you’re offering condolences for a death. A sorry in this situation shows that you’re empathetic, thoughtful, and compassionate. Second, save your apologies for when you’ve genuinely hurt someone’s feelings. When you say sorry in this situation, then you’re showing that you truly understand the negative impact of your words. Third, save your apologies for when you’re at fault for an accident or mistake. Let’s say you spill your coffee and it stains your friend’s handbag. Saying you’re sorry in this situation shows that you’re accepting responsibility for your unintended actions.

Step 2: Own Your Decisions

Your decisions are yours to make. No one has a say in your decisions unless you ask for their input. If your decisions are legal and don’t negatively impact other people then there’s no reason to be sorry. Let’s say you sign up to volunteer at your daughter’s school book fair. A few hours before your volunteer shift, you get called into work. You switch shifts with another volunteer. Own your decision that you found someone to cover your book fair shift and your decision to go to work. You don’t need to say sorry for making a decision to stay employed.

I’m a mom of two kids. Both of them know that I’ll make decisions that are in their best interests, but at times they may not like my decisions. One house rule is that they have to complete their chores before texting, talking to friends, or turning on the tube. I own my decision to instill a sense of responsibility in my kids. There’s no need for me to say “I’m sorry that you’ll have to complete your chores before texting your friends.” If I do, then I’m undermining my decision.

Step 3: Recognize When Not to Be Sorry

You’ll have to recognize when not to be sorry in order to stop saying sorry. In any situation where you’d typically apologize, remember that your first response should be no response. You want to pause-think-talk. Let’s say you’re working on your laptop when you hear your name. As you continue typing, you might be tempted to say, “I’m sorry, what?”

Whoa, pump the brakes! What are you apologizing for? Saying sorry because you heard your name? Wrong move. Instead, pause when you hear your name. Think about whether the situation warrants an apology, which it doesn’t. Talk – some options include: “Yes.” “What?” “What do you need?” “Are you calling me?” Notice there isn’t an “I’m sorry” in any of the options. Even “Huh?” would be better than “I’m sorry” in this situation.

Remember that if you find yourself apologizing for situations that don’t have anything to do with you or for situations that you have no control over, stop! Pause-think-talk. Yes, it’s that simple, yet it’ll take some time before this process becomes automatic.

Step 4: Replace Sorry With Three New Words

Before you say, “I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say besides, ‘I’m sorry,’” I have three replacement words for you.

Please: Many women say “I’m sorry” to soften their request. For example, you might say to your husband, “I’m sorry, would you take out the trash?” Taking out the trash is a reasonable request; therefore no apology is needed. Just say, “Please take out the trash.” Use direct communication. Yet you’re still being polite by adding “please.”

Excuse me: Many women say “I’m sorry” when they feel like an imposition. Let’s say your waiter brought you the wrong meal. You might be tempted to say, “I’m sorry, this isn’t what I ordered, but…” Realize that part of the waiter’s responsibility to ensure you receive the correct order and enjoy your dining experience.  You’re not an imposition to request that the kitchen fix a mistake. Instead say, “Excuse me, but this isn’t what I ordered…”

Thank You: Many women say, “I’m sorry” when receiving constructive criticism or for perceived shortcomings. For example, your child’s teacher gives you constructive criticism on his school project. Many women would feel bad and have a need to apologize for any shortcomings. Wrong move. Instead of saying, “I’m sorry” and giving your list of reasons, which will be perceived as excuses anyway, say, “Thank you for your suggestion.” Or “Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”

Step 5: Remember You Are Entitled to Your Feelings

A pervasive stereotype is that women are too emotional. Frequently when we express strong emotions or opinions, people wonder if it’s that time of the month for us. As women, we tend to internalize these messages and begin to question if something is wrong with us. We don’t want to look unbalanced or imperfect. So we distance ourselves from strong emotions and deny what we really feel. We falsely believe that we’ll be seen more positively.

Instead, we should be authentic with our feelings. Own what you feel. They’re your feelings and you should be empowered by them. Authenticity is personally and professionally healthier than self-denial.

This plan was originally created for Dr. Oz's Truth Tube. Find more expert Truth Tube plans here and see how Ericalee took this phrase out of her daily vocabulary.

Article written by Blanca Cobb
CEO of TruthBlazer, nationally recognized body language, and lie detection expert.