Want to be taken seriously? Stop using this word right now

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How to Stay Focused at Work

Do you say "sorry" too much? And, is this hindering your reputation as a serious leader or contributor at work?

If you are overly concerned about pleasing people and and not disappointing others, then you probably over use "sorry." So, why do you say "sorry" when you really shouldn't? Many people subconsciously feel like apologies and excuses minimize the potential disappointment the receiver might feel.

So, are you an over user of "sorry"? If you consistently identify with any or all of the following situations, "sorry" should be removed immediately from your vocabulary of most frequently used words:

You are in a meeting and disagree with your colleague. So, you say, "I'm sorry, but I disagree..." before stating your opinion.

You are unable commit to a new and non-required project at work because you are slammed, so you decline and say something like, "I'm sorry, I'm so busy, and I cannot take on another project. So sorry about that. Sorry!"

You have a new job and your coworker comes by your desk and invites you to happy hour after work with a group of your new coworkers. You don't want to go because you are exhausted and just don't have the energy for it. So, you say: "I'm so sorry, but I have to pick my daughter up at school. I wish I could go with you guys. Sorry, next time!" Oops, you don't even have a child. Wrong excuse!

A man is walking towards you while looking at his phone. He runs smack dab into you. This is clearly his fault. You say "sorry" and he does not.

Related: 13 things successful people do between jobs

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13 things successful people do between jobs
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Want to be taken seriously? Stop using this word right now

Minimize the stress of your first week in a new job by taking time to organize your personal life.

"Any projects around the house that have been nagging at the back of your mind? Now's the time to get them done," says Ryan Kahn, the founder of The Hired Group and creator of the best-selling How To Get Hired online course.

Miriam Salpeter, job search coach, owner of Keppie Careers, and author of "Social Networking for Career Success" and "100 Conversations for Career Success," says your break between jobs is the perfect time to schedule doctor appointments and deliveries that require you to be home, and to run any errands that may be difficult to get done once you start your new job.

"Take advantage of not having to be reachable during the day, and stop checking your email or looking at Facebook for an afternoon or two," says Sutton Fell. "This gives you a chance to reset your brain."

Instead of staring at a screen for hours on end — which you'll probably have to do as soon as you start your new job — pick up a book you've been dying to read, or go take an exercise class you've been wanting to try.

"Before starting a new job, take the time to ensure that you are maintaining the relationships you had formed at your previous job," Kahn says.

Make sure you have contact information for the people that you worked with in the past, and plan on checking in with them on a regular basis once you're in your new role.

We know we said earlier you should take a break from technology — but it's okay (and advised!) to take an hour to two during your time off to update your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook profiles with your new company and job title.
You might not have a chance to do afternoon lunches with people for the first few months of your new job, so your break is a great time to do these, says Sutton Fell.

Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert and best-selling author, suggests using this break to spend time with family.

"When you start any new job you should expect to work longer hours — at least the first several months," she says. "Utilize this time to make the most of being at home."

Whether you can get away for a night or a week, take a trip somewhere to recharge, see new sights, and take full advantage of your time off, Sutton Fell says.

In today's competitive job market, the more senior the position, the more you will be scrutinized in those first few months, Kahn says.

"You'll be expected to hit the ground running versus spending time learning the ropes. Get a head start by researching the industry and the company, and learning as much as you can about the position and the team you will be working with," he suggests. 

Give some thought to what you want to do differently from the start in this new job, Williams Yost says.

"Are you going to try to wake up earlier and get to the gym a couple of days a week? Are you going to try to schedule a networking lunch outside of the office once a month?" Use this time to establish a plan. 

During this rare lull between jobs, think about where you are headed. Where do you want to be in five years? In 10 years? How will this job help you get there? Coming in knowing where you're going will help you stay on the right path from day one, Kahn says.

If your work schedule is shifting at all, it's important to organize things like childcare, household responsibilities, and your personal routine, Sutton Fell says.

Salpeter says if you altered your sleep schedule at all during your time off, you should try to get into a "work-oriented sleep routine" a few days before starting your new job.

Don't forget to spend some time on yourself. Take time to relax, get plenty of rest, and indulge in some pampering. 

"Congratulate yourself on a job well done," Williams Yost says. "Treat yourself to a massage, new power outfit, or a nice dinner. You landed a job in a dim market; you should take the time to be proud of yourself."

Worried that it may be difficult to get back into the swing of things if you’re too relaxed during your time off? "Work is like riding a bike; once you start that first day, you'll click right back in," Williams Yost explains. "So don't worry about being too relaxed during your break. Drink it all in. Enjoy every minute of it. Then dive into your new gig with a new outfit, fresh outlook, and happy heart."

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You have to reschedule dinner plans with a friend because you have a deadline to meet. You text her and apologize profusely for having to bail. You text her when you get home over apologizing again.


It doesn't matter if you lead a company, team, or are an aspiring leader, saying "sorry" when it's not actually necessary minimizes and devalues your commitments, opinions, experiences, and beliefs.

5 Ways to Stop Over Using "Sorry?"

1) Keep a tally on how many times you say "sorry" in a day. Note to yourself in which situations you most frequently use "sorry." Awareness of when you over use "sorry" is the first step in erasing it from your vocabulary.

2) Ask yourself: Is this something I truly need to apologize for? Have I made a terrible mistake or hurt someone? You will likely find that more often than not, an apology is not warranted.

3) Reserve apologizes for when you truly need to ask for forgiveness. Research indicates that when a person receives a genuine apology, they experience physical and mental benefits. And, when you need to ask for forgiveness do not minimize this act and the true essence of the meaning of "sorry" with excuses.

4) When you decide not to commit to something, do not apologize or give an excuse. You have the right to to firmly say, "No, I am unable to..."

5) When you provide a differing opinion do not qualify this with a "Sorry, but..."

This all might feel excruciating at first, but you will likely feel a renewed sense of empowerment to stand your ground without the superfluous noise of apologies and excuses.

To be taken seriously and to get things done, authentic and courageous leaders do not make "sorry" part of their regular vocabulary. Authentic leaders do not apologize for their point of view or values, but instead reserve the use of "sorry" for only the most appropriate of circumstances.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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