Everything you’re doing to reopen your business right now is really good news! But are you in danger of making your customers think it’s a bad thing?

In last week’s blog, we shared some practical ways you can turn all the social distancing measures you have to make into a positive communication message.

All those physical restrictions you have to make in this new normal…yes, they present a new challenge, but they also give you a great opportunity to show your customers how much you care about their wellbeing, and the steps you’re taking to keep them safe.

It’s obviously an important issue for small business owners right now, given the great feedback we got from lots of you. (We even got the chance to share some handy advice live on BBC radio!)  Check out the blog here if you didn’t see it already. 

One of the guidelines in that blog is the need to STOP APOLOGISING!

Be loud and proud about the assurances you have put in place to protect your customers and clients. 

Every time you say: “I’m sorry about….” you send the subliminal message that you have done or said something that the other person will dislike. And so they can’t help but have a negative response to your message.

What does this mean for you and your business?

It means you’re getting exactly the opposite response to the one you want! And it means that you might unknowingly be undoing all your hard work to communicate your business and attract customers.

First of all, ask yourself this: how often do you apologise?

(Not the polite sort of apology you give when you accidentally tread on someone’s foot. Nor the heartfelt apology you make when you have made a genuine mistake. They’re good. Keep those.)

We’re talking about the ‘hidden apologies’ that might not even include the word “sorry” but which so many of us weave unthinkingly into our conversations and our content.

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.

Watch out for words that weaken your impact

For example, when a customer comments on the changes you have made to your premises to accommodate social distancing, what do you say?

Do you take the opportunity to remind them how important your customers are to you, and the effort (and cost) you are investing in keeping them safe? Or do you find yourself apologising for the inconvenience it may cause?

The same applies to comments from your colleagues, as well as your customers. When a team-mate 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 something you have produced, 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– I’ll get that changed.”

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 a suggestion to a customer, or perhaps an idea in a meeting, but starting with words like: “I think maybe you should…” or “this is probably a daft idea but…”? If so, try something like: “you’d get really good results from…”. You might be surprised at how much you convince others 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 indeed it won’t 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. 

Take back your power

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 someone 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. And just imagine what you could do with that…

Please let us know what happens 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 time – stay safe and well (without apologising!).

Lucy & Emma | The Communication Coaches

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