I used to be a ‘sorry’. I’d say things like, ‘I’m sorry, I have a question.’
‘Sorry, can I speak with you a minute?’
‘No, I don’t have the time, sorry.’
‘Sorry, I have to leave now.’
By using the word ‘sorry’ I was being submissive and undermining my ‘inner authority’. The word indicated fear: of being a burden, of appearing uncooperative, of being inadequate. It was a lousy message to give myself. It is self abuse, and unacceptable. Don’t go through your life saying ‘Sorry’. If you are in a bus and about to get out of your seat, don’t say ‘Sorry’ to the person in your way. Say ‘Excuse me’ or say nothing. You can thank the person as you leave.
‘Sorry for bothering you.’ WRONG. Try, ‘Excuse me, would you please . . .’
‘Sorry to interrupt, but we need to’ WRONG. Try, ‘Excuse me, we need to . . .’
‘Sorry for the bad news.’ WRONG. Try, ‘I have bad news.’
‘Sorry, I have a question.’ WRONG. Try, ‘I have a question.’
‘I’m sorry, I’m out of the office.’ WRONG. Try: ‘I’m out of the office.’
Have you met Verne?
Verne: ‘Sorry to bother you, Greg, but if you don’t mind, I have a question. Sorry.’
Greg. ‘I welcome your question, Verne. No need to apologise.’
Avoid other lame expressions:
‘If it’s alright with you, . . .’
‘If it’s okay with you, . . . ‘
‘You might think I’m crazy, but . . .’
‘I’m not certain I agree with you . . .’
‘I don’t think I can allow that . . .’
‘Just wondering . . .’
‘Sorry for taking so long to reply.’
‘I don’t mean to pester you, but . . .’
They are not expressions of humility, they’re just lame and subservient, and they undermine our self confidence. If you are one of those people, you are living in Wimp City and need to get out. Never use those terms again.
Losing these wimpy expressions might take time, effort and diligence, but when you are finally out of the habit of using them you will look back and compare. You will find that you have more respect for the person you have become. (And, hopefully, you will feel compassion for the person you once were.) You will find yourself less anxious, because instead of apologising for your existence, you now honour yourself when you speak with people. Result: self-respect and self-confidence.
If you catch yourself saying ‘Sorry’ or any other undermining phrase, don’t criticise yourself. Just mentally rephrase your sentence to make it healthy, and move on. Catching yourself saying it is the important bit, because that will help break the habit.
Don’t say: ‘I’m sorry to bother you but could you give me a hand, please?’
Try instead: ‘Could you give me a hand, please? I need at least half an hour. Is now a good time?’
Don’t say: ‘I’m not sure if this is important enough to bring to your attention, but . . .’
Try instead: ‘I bring to your attention that . . .’
Don’t say: ‘Oh, I’m just the receptionist.’
Try instead: ‘I’m the receptionist.’
Don’t say: ‘I think the Crows are a quality football team.’
Try instead: ‘The Crows are a quality football team.’
(My high school English teacher taught me that. She said, ‘When it’s obvious it’s your opinion, don’t begin your sentences with ‘I think’. They know it’s what you think.)
Don’t say: ‘I’m not sure.’
Try instead: ‘I don’t know.’
Q. ‘What if I am genuinely sorry?’
Then apologise. Give an apology when one is due, but don’t be a ‘sorry’. Apologies are meant for people who have been wronged.
Avoid that automatic ‘sorry’. Get rid of the grovel. Eradicate expressions that make you uninspiring and sap your self-confidence.
Q. ‘What if I bump into someone?’
In that instance I say ‘sorry’. It’s a courtesy thing.
Rephrase the following sentences. (One sentence doesn’t need rephrasing. Which one?)
‘I’m just ringing to see how you are. I hope you don’t mind.’
‘I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave.’
‘I was just wondering about your opening hours?’
‘I’m not sure where the cinema is, sorry.’
‘Shop closed. Death in family. Sorry for the inconvenience.’
‘I know it’s a silly question, but where is the lounge room?’
‘I’d like a biscuit please, if you don’t mind?’
‘Sorry for being late. I had three flat tyres on the way.’
‘I think you’re living in Wimp City and you need to get out.’
‘Could you stop talking on your phone please while the performance is on?’
‘I know it’s a bother, but would you please let me use your toilet?’
Which sentence doesn’t need changing? If you inconvenience someone you need to apologise for it. For being late, for example. Even if your bicycle had three flat tyres.
Why do we need to be assertive? Find out why in ‘Don’t Live in Wimp City‘.
More assertiveness tips:
1. State what needs to happen from now on.
Don’t state the obvious. Focus on the future.
2. You are not obliged to give a reason.
We are taught to justify our decisions. Forget it!
3. Show the person you understand their point of view.
When they realise you understand them, they pressure you less.
4. Don’t run away.
Life isn’t like it is in the movies.
5. You don’t need to solve the other person’s problem.
If you do, there will be more pressure on you to be the solution.
6. You are not obligated to answer all questions.
Sometimes, people ask you questions to manipulate you.
7. Ensure your question is answered.
People are good at dodging questions, and most of the time they don’t realise it. Don’t let them get away with it.
9. Don’t be an ‘Are you sure?’.
Who is afraid of being a burden?
10. Don’t be a ‘Maybe’.
Have you ever said to a salesperson, “Maybe later?”
11. Get rid of the ums & ers.
Speak like you know what you are talking about.
12. Ask why.
Don’t waste your time trying to mind-read.
13. Ask for help.
That’s one good way to take responsibility for yourself.
14. Learn to say ‘no’.
We are taught to be compliant and co-operative. But that can be a problem.
15. Ask for something in return.
Favours are not tradeable commodities.
16. Accept compliments.
It’s a classy, assertive way to respond.