Lately I’ve realized that I say sorry way too much. This is not a new thing either. I’ve always been an over-apologizer. Sometimes to the annoyance of others and even myself.
Here are some of the things I’ve said sorry for in the past couple of days:
Almost colliding with my husband as we were taking a walk after dinner. (For something I almost did.)
Putting my yogurt cup in front of my husband’s plate on the table while we were eating lunch. (For something that wasn’t a big deal.)
The fact that the only bananas at the grocery store were green instead of ripe. (For something that was out of my control.)
Asking my husband to pick up something at the store on the way home. (For asking for what I needed.)
The floor not being vacuumed in a while. (For not being the “perfect wife.”)
Feeling down. (For having emotions and the need to express them.)
Should I have been apologizing in any of these situations? No.
This Pantene commercial that came out a couple years ago is an glance into how often women use sorry when they shouldn’t be.
Why do we say sorry so much?
Apparently this is another thing that women have mastered well. The art of the sorry. But the true difference between the sexes is what we believe merits a sorry. Studies show that men say sorry less because they believe they have committed fewer offensive acts which merit a sorry. Basically they have a higher threshold for what they believe they should say sorry for.
Women are often people pleasers, which results in us apologizing for things that could be displeasing or unpleasant for other people, even if they aren’t our fault. We may also be simply attempting to keep the peace or maintain likability with other people. Here are some situations in which we are frequently saying sorry:
When we feel like we are being a bother or inconveniencing someone. Have you ever interrupted a coworker’s busy day and prefaced it with a sorry? Have you ever felt guilty for having to ask for someone’s help? Or for simply reminding someone of their responsibilities? Or for asking for a new meal when there is something wrong with yours at a restaurant?
When we feel like we are failing to measure up to our own expectations for ourselves. Have you ever apologized for simply being you? For having a natural emotional reaction to a situation? For being busy and not having time to complete something on your to-do list? Or for falling short in any way? Even when the other person has not even noticed that you have done something “wrong”?
When we feel uncomfortable or not confident. Sorry can be used as a filler when we feel bad that a situation is occurring but there is nothing that we can do to help. Or when we are second guessing what we are saying. Or when we are in a conversation or setting that just makes us feel uncomfortable. It can become another “um” or “you know.”
When we actually want an apology from the other person. Sometimes we use sorry in a manipulative way to attempt to extract an apology from another person. The truth though is that this rarely works and we usually end up feeling like we had something to apologize for anyways.
What’s the problem with saying sorry so much?
Even if we are mostly using sorry as a filler, it can start to creep into our view of the world around us and ourselves.
It can destroy our confidence and make us question the value of what we are saying. It also start to make other people doubt our words and confidence as well. We may begin to feel like we are an interruption and in the way, which can cause us to start not even interrupting or asking for things in the first place. Always taking responsibility for things that aren’t our fault can lead to lowered self esteem. And if you are like me, you will start believing that you are to blame for everything you say sorry for.
So instead own yourself, what you have to say, and what you are feeling. You don’t need to apologize for taking up space in the world, for being yourself, for having something to contribute, and for not being superwoman.
You shouldn’t be saying sorry…
For things that aren’t your fault or that you have no control over.
For having feelings and expressing them in a healthy, non-harmful way.
For asking for help or what you need from the people in your life, whether in the workplace or at home.
For your perceived flaws and little mistakes.
When you think the other person should be the one saying it.
When you are feeling uncomfortable or not confident in a situation.
In situations which you could say “Excuse me” or “Sure” instead, such as when you bump into someone or you are asked to repeat something you said.
To simply keep the peace or avoid conflict.
Take these first steps today:
Take notice of when you say sorry.
Ask yourself why you were saying sorry.
Consider what you could have said instead or even if saying nothing would have been appropriate.
The more consideration we give to our motivation and alternatives, the more conscious we will be of our apologizing. I have found that this reflection over the past few days has been helping me to start adjusting how often and in what situations I use sorry.
What was the silliest thing you said sorry for this week?