Apologise Less – Why Sorry can damage your Mental Mindset

Say Sorry Less – It seems silly doesn’t it?

To Suggest that a simple word that from a young age, we’re encouraged to spit out at the slightest inclination of somebody feeling wronged – can ultimately be adversely affecting your mindset.

Surely it’s the mark of the modern day, self entitled pig that we’ve come to shame as of late.

But let’s break it down from a different perspective.

Sorry is an admission of guilt or wrong-doing in many ways. Even if it’s an insincere ‘sorry’ for something that you’re not really sorry or even bothered about, it expresses a personal level of concern and culpability.

But why is that a bad thing?

Not necessarily bad, but when we look at it from a subconscious level it takes on a few unintended results. I’ve seen it most of all in people in work environments and relationships where there is a dominating person who on an emotional level makes a person feel like they always need to be apologising.


The Subconscious is ALWAYS listening.

When you bring yourself down to the point of constantly apologising, you feed your subconscious mind messages such as ‘I keep screwing up’. ‘All of these things that are wrong, I’ve caused.’ This type of behaviour manifests itself eventually in second-guessing, not going with gut-instinct and shots to your confidence whether you notice it or not.

The solution isn’t to shirk off personal responsibility – after all it is one of the golden rules.

No, the solution is to be mindful and tactful into how you respond to external matters. Let’s put that in some practical terms.

If a client is berating you for being out of stock. This is due to factors well outside your control, perhaps a ship sank, a storm came in or even the client’s own bad planning means you were not able to meet their goals. (I say goal as opposed to expectations, as these should be identified and managed well in advance).

Rather than ‘I’m Sorry we’re out of stock’, an approach of ‘Unfortunately we are out of stock – I understand and am sorry that you feel that way, but the storm has hindered deliveries. If you’ll let me provide a solution for you, I’ll do every thing I can to get it to your door asap – would this help us move forwards?’

There’s a few things at play there. You acknowledge that it is unfortunate showing some empathy. You express that you understand their grievance and on a personal level are sorry about that. Then you are leading them through a question which pre-supposes them to say “yes”, shifting the power back to your court.

Practice Empathy
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Actions are always more powerful than words – and when it comes to a situation where traditionally you would say sorry, this couldn’t be truer. Expressing your empathy not only has a powerful impact on the receiver, but your subconscious shifts from a place of ‘this is my fault’ to ‘this person is expressing a feeling.’ Double down on this by taking steps to solve and add value to someone else’s situation ad not only does it reap benefits for them, but your internal mindset begins to operate objectively. Externalise the thought process, making actions from a place of logic rather than emotions and the subconscious learns not to burden you with minor problems, whilst promotes that problem solving ability.

Acknowledge and Build

Ask for constructive feedback rather than focus on a token sorry.

An example I’ve seen all the time throughout my career is someone junior or senior, it doesn’t really matter, being presented with work they have completed incorrectly. First thing that 90% of them do is say ‘sorry’. Putting in them into the above-mentioned spaces. What are you apologising for? For doing your best and getting it wrong? For knowing less than someone else who is paid more? Making your boss or colleague do their job?

They don’t seem like things you should apologise, does it? It’s different if your reason is simply ‘couldn’t be bothered to do it properly, Jeff’ – then by all means, you should apologise.

If not, explore an approach of “I didn’t realise that wasn’t the correct result, please tell me what you would have done differently to avoid this situation?”

At the end of the day, if I were to sum up my point here in a single sentence it would be this.

You owe your subconcious more than blaming it for everything around you in the world that goes wrong.

There is a difference between taking responsibility and taking blame, believe it or not. Your subconcious is often akin to a child that you have to talk to in the right tonality and with the right level of criticism, and appropriately in the context of the current situation.

Be Wary of apologising as a first reaction – some people out there do need an apology, generally, their model of the world is one that ranks their emotions higher than practicality. Acknowledge them, empathise with them, reason with them and as a last resort, apologise if still needed.

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