As I walk into my boss’ office, I am greeted with the click-clacking sounds of fingers dancing ferociously over computer keys and see a furrowed brow framing laser focused eyes staring intently at the screen.
“Hey Becky, um sorry to bother you but…”
I am boarding the crowded DC train in the middle of rush hour and am carried aboard in a wave of frustrated and harried people. I drop my bag between my feet and reach up and grab the overhead bar to stabilize myself as I begin the long trek home. Another passenger’s hand grazes mine. Again, I say sorry.
I say sorry at least 15 times each day–whether I am at fault or not. It has become a staple in my vocabulary.
To all my chronic over apologizers–why do we do that?
One common theory, which fairly accurately explains my overuse of the word “sorry,” is that being perceived as rude is so abhorrent–especially to women— that we need to make ourselves less obtrusive before we speak up. We also say sorry to display humility and as a way to avoid or quickly end conflict.
Here are some reasons we should rethink when, why and how we say sorry and possibly strike it from our vocabulary altogether:
1. It devalues the purpose of an apology
When we say sorry too easily and too frequently or when we apologize for things that are clearly not our fault, not in our control, or otherwise unworthy of apology we completely strip away the meaning and the power of a sincere apology.
The bottom line here is saying sorry too much can trivialize the act of the apology, making the important ones carry less weight. Be careful about crying wolf–save it for when you really need it, and mean it.
2. We devalue ourselves by saying sorry so frequently
Most people equate apologizing with humility. We tend to think that a prideful person can offend someone and walk away with apologizing. An interesting thing happens however, when we say sorry in situations that do not warrant that word. We tell people that they are worth more than we are. It signifies that our low self-esteem is low.
There is nothing wrong with being a confident, self assured individual that doesn’t take responsibility for someone else’s mistake. You are a living, breathing being who deserves to be seen as an equal by everyone you encounter. Don’t devalue yourself. The next time someone runs into you, scrap the apology and instead share an understanding glance. It happens.
3. Sorry is used to try and fix situations but it doesn’t resolve conflicts
This is especially true for those of us who don’t like confrontation and will go to any length just to avoid a scene. We will quickly fling “sorry” at a situation to stifle an argument before it starts. And while this is necessary at times, other times we need to “man up” or “put our big girl panties on” and work to actually resolve the conflict.
Saying sorry also can be a way of manipulating a situation. We will use it an effort to avoid addressing a certain topic or having to face undesirable behaviors or attributes. How many times have we heard–or even said–“I said I’m sorry, what else do you want from me?” This is a classic way of using a weak (and usually insincere) apology to fix something without reaching a resolution.
4. Sorry makes you–in fact– SORRY!
A person who is always apologizing, especially in the work place, will quickly be viewed and labeled a sorry individual. It gives people the impression that you are mistake prone, incompetent and a sorry individual.
Over apologizing can actually effect your self-esteem and self-perception. It’s the law of the self fulfilling prophecy.The more you say you are sorry, the more you will believe it and ultimately become it.
Try not to say sorry for a full 24 hours. That doesn’t mean that you should avoid apologizing if you are at fault. Take responsibility and apologize without using the word sorry.
Here are a few words/phrases that can help you with this endeavor:
- “Excuse/pardon me”
- “Thank you”
- “I regret…”
- “It’s unfortunate…”
- “That’s sad”