Before a recent gym class started, the instructor (let’s call her Tula) shared a personal story. She prefaced the story with, “Let me start by saying I LOVE my mom, I really do. But I have to tell you about a recent visit.” She shared the highlights of a couple of their outings, but pretty quickly got to the part of the story she really wanted to share. 

She explained that her mother is an apologizer, always has been. It seems her mom apologizes for everything but mostly for nothing at all. On this recent visit, while the two of them, along with Tula’s boyfriend, were driving in silence, her mother, out of nowhere, said, “Sorry.” Tula, out of a purely gut reaction, said, “Where the ‘F’ did that come from?!” Even for her mother, this was a new level. 

What’s up with your mom? 

Tula’s boyfriend later observed, “Your mom is always apologizing; she seems to be apologizing for simply being, for occupying space, for breathing air, for being present. Why is that?” 

Tula said she has always been annoyed by her mother’s incessant apologizing and admitted it gave her a lesser opinion of her mother. However, she said it was her boyfriend’s question that made her realize that her response and feelings to the apologies weren’t simply a daughter’s frustration, it was a source of confusion for everyone with whom her mother interacts. 

Tula’s conclusion is that her mom questions her own value and that it is only natural that others then question it as well.  

Where is this going, KT? 

You are probably wondering why I’m sharing this story and what it could possibly have to do with you and growing your business. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. 

Be honest with yourself, are you a constant business-apologizer? Are you apologizing for your presence, for breathing air, for occupying space, for simply being? No? Are you absolutely sure?  

“I’m sorry” is the silent business killer 

The words “I’m sorry” don’t always have to come out of your mouth. Actions speak louder than words, and sometimes it’s your actions that do the apologizing. Sometimes you use other words, but your audience still only hears an apology. 

  • When you show up at a prospect’s office, do you tell them, “Thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me.” I know, you’re wondering, where’s the apology in that? This message makes them more important than you. It implies that you are an interruption, an imposition, an inconvenient presence. Instead, say something like, “I am so happy it worked out for us to get together today. It is still respectful but conveys an opportunity for both sides.  
  • As you make your sales pitch, do you find yourself saying things like, What we try to do is . . .” or What we like to do is . . . This language is soft and is interpreted as an advanced apology for not performing. Instead, use  strong, confident language, What we do is . . . or For each of our clients, our process is to . . . Own and commit to the outcome. Confidence is attractive, apologies are so not. 
  • Maybe you apologize before even meeting someone. Do you get physically ill at the idea of picking up the phone to make that cold call? Or, maybe you breathe a sigh of relief when you are sent to voicemail and then hang up without leaving a message? It may only be in your own mind, but you are apologizing to them for the interruption you almost were.   
  • When seemingly interested prospects unexpectedly stall out, do you find yourself simply looking at your pipeline in frustration but not taking any action to push them along? If so, you likely wonder if the time they already gave you was wasted and that, short of having to call them with an apology, you simply won’t ask them to waste any more of their time. 
  • Do you find yourself lurking in the corner of social media platforms, not contributing, commenting, or interacting with others? Are you quietly apologizing for taking up space? 
  • When giving a presentation, do you start by saying, “I’m really not a very good public speaker” or “I HOPE you get something from what I’m going to share” or “I’m not an expert but, . . .” ? As soon as you apologize for what you are about to say, your entire audience is looking to validate your apology. Bad for you, worse for them. 

If so, you are apologizing for the wrong things 

You have valuable ideas that can impact others. You have had unique experiences from which others can learn. You have had successes that others need to have for their own. And, yes, you have had failures that others need to avoid.  

Not only is sharing these stories nothing to apologize for, you have an obligation to share them. Part of your responsibility on this journey we call life or that we call business, is to be present in the moment, to fill an appropriate level of space, and to share yourself with others.  

The only thing we should apologize for is keeping us to ourselves. 

Photo Credit: Валерий Качаев

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