Like many women, I’ve found that I apologize in excess. It’s a simple and inconvenient truth of my life. While I support delivering apologies by definition (to truly offer remorse for a failure or offense), I find myself delivering them on many additional—and gratuitous—occasions. I apologize so much so I find that “sorry” has become almost a default reaction, so much so I didn’t even notice its subtle infiltration into my vocabulary, but woke up one day drowning in a sea of apologies.
According to psychiatrist Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., who wrote about the topic for Psychology Today, “[apologizing] may be a reflection of low self-esteem, a diminished sense of entitlement, an unconscious wish to avoid any possibility of criticism or disapproval before it even occurs, an excessive wish to placate and please, some underlying river of shame, or a desire to show off what a well-mannered Brownie Scout one is.”
If you find yourself in a similarly over-apologetic position, I encourage you to consider whether all those sorries are really worth it, or if there are reasons enough to simply skip them (or most of them, anyway).
Below, check out 6 very solid reasons to stop apologizing, already.
“Sorry” Is Not What You Actually Mean
For me, the number-one reason why it’s important to put a stopper on my own excessive apologies is that ‘sorry’ has become a filler word (similar to ‘um’ and ‘uh’) for a lot of circumstances. And in that way, it’s become watered down to the point where it either means nothing, or is a very passive way of expressing aggression or frustration. Did you really mean “sorry,” or “excuse me,” or—more likely—“excuse you,” or, “you’re offending me”? If so, it’s time for a rephrase.
Don’t Be the Girl Who Cried “Sorry”
The more often you apologize, the less impact it has. Stop apologizing for taking up space in a subway car or small mistakes in speech and start apologizing when you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. This is also true when it comes to the tone behind each apology. If you apologize with the same emphatic readiness when it takes you two hours to reply to a text as you would upon hitting a puppy with your car, it’s time to check in with yourself.
People Are Tougher Than You Think
According to a 2011 study, men apologize significantly less frequently than women (shocker!) because they have a higher threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior. So, before you rush forth with your next apology, consider your audience—was what you said or did truly offensive? Would the person you’re about to say sorry to apologize for doing the same thing to you? That shouldn’t always be your benchmark for how to behave, of course, but it’s worth thinking about if you’re a constant over-apologizer.
It’s Not Your Fault
This is a big one, and one to particularly consider in the workplace. Are you apologizing for something that’s beyond your control? Are you doing it to smooth things over with a coworker or client, even though the situation was out of your control and not even remotely your fault? I find that the best way to avoid apologizing for situations outside your onus is to stick to the facts, while keeping explanations simple and straightforward.
There Are Other Ways to Ask For Approval
Often, when we tack the word “sorry” before or after an assertion, it implies a slight nudge for reassurance (i.e. “sorry, but don’t you think we could take an alternate course in X situation?”). Before you rush to be reassured with forgiveness, think about what you’re really seeking from that “sorry.” It could be simple as asking someone to hear out an idea for 10 minutes before rushing to conclusions.
It Might Feel Better Not to Apologize
A 2012 study found that while it does make people feel good to apologize in general, it actually makes people feel even better not to apologize. While these findings also highlight how hard it can be to find reconciliation in situations where true offense has been inflicted, it’s something to keep in mind for situations where you’re feeling a pull to say “sorry” but really haven’t done anything wrong. So let yourself off the hook, already!