How many times a day do you apologise? 

I’ll bet you do it more than you think. And if you do, the great news is that you can increase your personal impact hugely, in a heartbeat!

I’m not talking about saying sorry when you accidentally bump someone in a crowd, or apologising for a genuine mistake. I’m talking about the ‘hidden apologies’ that so many of us – especially women – weave into our daily conversation so often that we don’t even realise we are doing it.

We’ve probably grown up doing it. We may have learned at a very young age not to interrupt or that our opinions were not particularly welcome – and we’ve continued to wrap up a lot of what we say in an apology ever since.

In case you missed it – check out our previous blog in which one of our ‘three ways to make your content sparkle’ is to weed out your hidden apologies.

We call them ‘hidden apologies’ because they are so well camouflaged you probably don’t even see them. They sneak in and minimise our effort and our power. Sometimes they don’t sound like “sorry”, but they manage to put is on the back foot and eat away at our personal impact.


For example, when a colleague tells you: “great work today!”, how do you answer? A straight-up “thank you, and you too!”, or do you sound like you don’t really deserve that great feedback by saying something like: “couldn’t have done it without you”? 

What about when someone spots an error in a piece of work, and lets you know? Take a look at the language difference between these two responses:

  • “Oh, I’m so sorry! My bad. I totally missed that.”
  • “Oh, good catch! Thanks so much for letting me know – I’ll get that updated straight away.”

Which one of these makes you sound more authoritative and effective, and which one draws attention to your mistake?

Do you ever find yourself offering an idea in a meeting, but starting with words like: “I think maybe we should…” or “this is probably a daft idea but…”? If so, try something like: “we’d get really good results from…”. You might be surprised at how much you convince your colleagues that you really know your stuff, before you’ve even got to the actual suggestion.

And the one I really have to watch for myself – ending an explanation (written or verbal) with: “hopefully that makes sense?” It plants a tiny seed in the other person’s mind that it might not make sense. And if what you’ve said doesn’t really make sense, then they might not take you as seriously as they should. My go-to for that situation is: “let me know if you have any questions”, and position myself as a helpful authority instead. 


But why are we even talking about this? It’s just good manners, isn’t it? Why wouldn’t we interrupt someone with the words “I’m so sorry, but…” or “can I just…” instead of a less apologetic “may I have a moment?”

To a degree, yes – of course it is polite not to assume our colleague is just ready and waiting to talk to us when we walk over to ask a question. 

But when we position our contribution using apologetic words, we are diminishing it. Subliminally we’re telling people not to take what we say – or indeed, take us – too seriously. And guess what – without even knowing why, they won’t.

So if you want to be more visible or have a louder voice, or just have greater impact at work or in business, keep a beady eye on the language you use. Hunt out those seemingly minor words like ‘should’, ‘try’ or ‘just’, and replace them with words that shout about action and certainty. 

This conscious choice will give you the power and authority you deserve. Imagine what you could do with that…

Please let us know what happen when you remove your hidden apologies – comment below or come and see us on our Facebook page. And if there’s anyone you know who would benefit from greater impact and authority, please share this blog and tell them about us.

Until next week – have a great few days.

Lucy & Emma | The Communication Coaches


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