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Pantene’s #ShineStrong campaign recently released this video, asking the question, “Why are women always apologizing?”

The point that women need to stop apologizing unnecessarily is especially well-made in the scene when the woman introduces her great idea at work with the words, “I’m sorry.” This short Fast Company article explains some reasons why women say, “I’m sorry” when they mean something else.  For example, sometimes saying, “I’m sorry,” is easier than thinking of the word that really communicates your meaning.

These are good points. Due to lack of confidence, I know I’ve said, “I’m sorry” unnecessarily at work. But I would argue that saying, “I’m sorry” appropriately is much more important than eliminating the unnecessary “I’m sorry.”

For a person to say “I’m sorry” when she was truly at fault takes the kind of confidence that comes from true inner character. It’s tough to admit our mistakes. In my experience, most people aren’t eager to step up and take the blame for something that went wrong. They are much more likely to defend themselves and explain why they couldn’t possibly have done a better job.

So when I had a boss who admitted he was wrong and apologized to me, it surprised me. I work with a tough group of people. These men and women have years of experience in manufacturing. When they have something to say, they tell it to you straight. You better have your ducks in row before you dial in to a conference call, because they’re not going to have much patience if you’re fumbling around. All that is to say, I did not expect to ever receive a sincere “I’m sorry” from someone in this environment, much less a superior. And it’s happened more than once…from different people! Each time, it has deepened my respect for the person who was courageous and kind enough to admit his mistake.

The fact that these managers say “I’m sorry” speaks to their inner confidence and their leadership skills. They take ownership of their results. Not only do they expect each employee to take responsibility for his or her own mistakes, these managers show how it’s done.

To #ShineStrong as women in the workplace, we need to stop saying “I’m sorry” when we don’t mean it and start saying it when we do.

And maybe a good shampoo wouldn’t hurt either. (Because I have a really great hair cut right now, and sometimes I have a hard day, but I look in the mirror and think, “Well, at least my hair looks good!”)

When has someone surprised you by saying “I’m sorry”?

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