Do you ever go to Target and someone is coming out of the Enter door and they run into you but you say “oops, sorry!”? Or do
you ever want to pay with exact change and apologise to the cashier? Be honest, have you ever apologised to your cat for moving her off the couch?
We say sorry for little things ALL the time–maybe it’s manners, or our midwestern culture, but it actually goes much deeper than that. Over-apologising and saying sorry for things that you aren’t really sorry about or that aren’t your fault devalues apologies, and has become a reflex. Unknowingly, we are lowering our self-worth and harming our self-confidence by apologising for actions and circumstances we can hardly control.
In her book, “The Power of an Apology,” psychotherapist Beverly Engel says that over-apologizing and over-complimenting aren’t too different. You think you are making yourself into a nice and caring person, but you’re actually sending the message that you lack confidence and are ineffectual. Over-apologising just kinda makes you look dumb, and it puts the permission to treat you poorly into the wrong hands. It’s also really annoying. We all know that person who apologises for EVERYTHING, (like for being 2 minutes late or for being in the way or for just existing) and that person is really hard to be around. A study published in the journal Frontiers of Psychology found that saying “I’m sorry” while rejecting someone (such as cancelling plans or breaking up with them) makes the other person feel worse. It actually causes the other person to feel like they need to forgive the rejector before they are ready.
There are easy solutions to this problem, but they will take some getting used to in our regular lives. First, we need to know when we actually need to say sorry. When you really do something wrong, it is totally okay to apologize, and you probably should! DO apologise for forgetting your mom’s birthday, but do not apologize for your card getting to her late.
Another thing you can do is to try saying “thank you” instead of “sorry”. For example, instead of “sorry for talking so much” say “thank you for listening.” Jenny Marchal from Lifehack.org says that saying thank you gives notice of the other person’s contribution, and creates a positive reaction between the two of you. But, really, the biggest way to stop apologising so much is to stop caring so much about what other people think about you. In the article “Why do I say sorry all the time?”, Monica Drake writes, “learn to accept yourself and the decisions you make without apologizing for it. And learn to accept the fact that it is impossible to make others happy all the time.” So make yourself happy instead.
Apologising only serves to make you look small, but you are amazing and larger than life. As Regina George says in the hit Broadway musical Mean Girls, “Don’t apologize for anything that isn’t your fault. Don’t apologize for being a boss.”