Never say ‘sorry’ again. Here are 5 alternatives at work

Whether you’ve genuinely made a mistake that you need to remedy or you’re simply trying to gloss over a disagreement in the workplace that you’d rather not become bigger than need be,  sometimes saying the words “I’m sorry” can have the opposite effect—especially if you’re someone who over-apologizes for every little thing.

Rather than saying you’re sorry, there are a handful of different phrases and even actions you can opt for that will get your point across in a genuine and meaningful way—without running the risk of sounding trite or insincere.

Below, we’ve listed out a handful of quick and easy terms and phrases that will help you say you’re sorry in the workplace… without actually using those words.

The next time you feel the need to apologize, instead of ‘sorry’ use these alternatives to make amends instead.

“I take full responsibility” or “I was wrong”

“If something is your fault, it is helpful to admit your mistakes,” explains Cassandra LeClair, Ph.D. Author, Professor, and  Motivational Speaker.

“You do not need to make excuses or give justification for why something went wrong. Recognize when you have played a role and own up to your behaviors!”

“Thank you for pointing that out”

If someone brings something to your attention that you can change, you do not need to apologize repeatedly for your previous behavior.

“Thank them for giving you feedback and have an awareness of your actions in the future,” explains LeClair. “Changes in behaviors are just as important as apologies.”

“How can I improve?”

LeClair suggests avoiding saying things like, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” or “I apologize for how I made you feel.”

You are apologizing for your behaviors, and those sentiments shift blame onto the other person’s feelings. Take a look at where you can improve or change going forward.

“My apologies” or “my bad”

It really depends on how formal you want to be, but making your apology a little more casual and friendly may help break down any walls that occurred during your misstep.

“It depends on how formal you want to be, but, if I’m talking to the CEO, usually I will say ‘my apologies’ and if I’m talking to other coworkers, I would say ‘My bad,’” explains Petra Odak, Chief Marketing Officer at Better Proposals. 

“How can I resolve this?”

“When apologizing for something that may have been your fault, it’s important to not sound insincere. Sometimes just a ‘sorry’ can do that,” says Jim Beard, COO of BoxGenie.

“A different way of saying sorry can be, ‘I heard something I’ve done has hurt you. How can I resolve this?’ It shows you have an interest in fixing the issue, rather than brushing it off.”

“I appreciate your patience”

Instead of saying sorry for making someone wait or for not getting something right on the first try, thank them for their patience.

“This will make them feel a lot better than saying sorry, and they may even appreciate the pick me up,” explains Ethan Taub, CEO of Goalry and Loanry.

“We all make mistakes, so it is more important to thank someone for dealing with us, than to be always putting ourselves down. I think this works wonders and I would recommend trying to yourself next time you feel like you have to say sorry.”