I used to be a really nice person.
I was the kind of person who would nod sweetly and enthusiastically, as if I had a permanent coating of cotton candy on my lips—even when I was seething inside. (Whether this made me nice or a moron is still up for debate.)
I would never question anyone else's opinions, assuming that if they thought it, that made it true; that they saw something I didn't.
I would never tell anyone “no,” usually because my “no” was always met with one of theirs—a staunch refusal to take my boundaries seriously. They'd keep coming at me, and coming at me, until I finally caved. Like they could sense my weakness as they licked their bloody lips.
I would quietly observe the people around me, thinking things about their competence—things that I'll admit were not always above board—but letting them control the discussion, anyway, because I knew better; there was something about me that signaled others to talk over me. To minimize my validity. To spit in my face with words.
And then I got into business for myself. And let me tell you what—
Running a business will force you to face every demon you've ever buried in the graveyard of your heart.
Your business problems are often your personal problems in disguise, and I had to quickly learn that I either fixed the problem, or I destroyed everything.
One of the problems that kept coming up for me?
Over apologizing for everything.
Being a nice person means you say “I'm sorry” a lot.
And saying “I'm sorry” every five minutes invites people to think that you SHOULD BE. No wonder I wasn't getting any respect as a nice person.
For example, when I first started hiring employees, I would apologize for having them do work. I would apologize for asking them to do their JOB. “I'm so sorry to put this on you!” or “I'm sorry to add this to your list, but _______.”
So naturally, you can imagine my surprise when they began overstepping their boundaries with me, too. Taking extra liberties. Stretching deadlines. Disappearing without notice. And getting moody or visibly annoyed when I would put on my boss hat.
Not good, Felicia.
But as it turns out, nice people aren't the only ones who are over apologizing in business—A LOT of us do it. We do it because we don't want to be bitches. Don't want to seem overbearing. Don't want anyone whispering behind our backs anything but the most pleasant of pleasantries.
And because we want people to know that we're GOOD HUMANS, ALRIGHT? We really ARE sorry to put anyone out, or be difficult, or be demanding. But sometimes, being in business for yourself demands it.
One of my favorite tips for overcoming the whole “I'm so sorry!” epidemic?
Instead of saying “I'm sorry,” say “THANK YOU.”
I first heard this piece of advice from Meg Worden, who is the queen of making sure you take care of you in business…whatever shape that may take. She specializes in taking care of yourself through eating the right food, but let me tell you—this lady has all SORTS of gems of wisdom rammed up her kale leaf.
“I'm so sorry to stick you with this” transforms into:
“Thank you so much for taking care of this.”
“I'm so sorry for the delay!” transforms into:
“Thanks for your patience!”
“I'm sorry I'm being difficult” transforms into:
“Thanks for your thoughts here.”
“I'm sorry for making you work late” transforms into:
“Thanks for working so hard on this project.”
Once you start doing this, you'll automatically hold your head a little higher, knowing that you're leading with grace—not peeing apologies down your leg.
And even better?
I bet you anything that now that you've read this, you'll catch yourself saying “I'm sorry” way more than you thought you even did. In fact, I bet you type it in an email today! (Just don't forget to hit backspace and try this tip.)
Because, you know, it IS possible to be a nice person and still be a confident leader.
Contrary to what I used to think, it's not about being nice—it's about being respected.
And respect has nothing to do with how much cotton candy you've got on your lips.
It's about the words that come out of them.