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by Nicole Weber | July 01, 2015


To apologize, or not to apologize? That is the question that has been running through my mind multiple times a day since I read Sloane Crosley’s astute, refreshingly unapologetic op-ed in last week's NY Times. I have been aware of the female tendency to say “sorry” at every turn for several years now, after attending an eye-opening professional development seminar as a law firm associate. Since then I have tried to be mindful about avoiding the S-word in the workplace unless it is truly warranted. Crosley’s article seem to come at just the right moment: in the middle of my busiest time of year, when it would be impossible for me to meet every request, demand and deadline that is thrown my way. As a result I could be apologizing left and right to people. For example, those who missed deadlines and ignored instructions that I communicated to them quite clearly, and who are now disappointed and frustrated because of their own errors. But why should I say sorry? It’s not my fault!

So I have been consciously trying to eliminate “sorry” from my vocabulary unless it is absolutely necessary, not just at work but in life. Just as a man of sound judgment and upstanding character would.  It’s amazing, when I pay attention, how often I really am apologizing for my existence on a near-constant basis. Guy bumps into me on the subway? “Oh, sorry!” Buying a soda from the overpriced kiosk in the lobby and I’ve got a $20 bill? “Sorry,” as I hand it over to make my purchase. Coworker asks very kindly, because he needs to know, if I will be posting my blog in time to go out in Vault’s newsletter? “No, sorry.” (Even though I had not promised to do so, was under no specific obligation to, and he was only asking to see whether he should include a placeholder for the article). Listen to myself long enough and my day starts to sound like the Amy Schumer sketch Crosley aptly describes as more “disturbing” than “amusing.”  

I’m making a commitment to follow Crosley’s sound advice, to STOP saying sorry: “It’s not what we’re saying that’s the problem, it’s what we’re not saying. The sorrys are taking up airtime that should be used for making logical, declarative statements, expressing opinions and relaying accurate impressions of what we want.”  But I want to be careful that I don’t neglect to say “sorry” in situations where it is truly warranted; I don’t want to be one of those mean people at the office or an inconsiderate friend. Therein lies the grey area—and there goes that everpresent female tendency to please! I’m generally a caring, gracious person, and I don’t want that part of my personality to fade away as I detoxify myself of apologetic tendencies. I’ll start by erring on the side of NOT sorry, and see where that takes me. And if I offend you in the process… well, I’m just not sorry.

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Being Nice: The Key to Career Success
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Can Women ‘Have it All’ at This Firm?