It’s a strange thing because we are taught from childhood that we should apologize. “Say you’re sorry”, your parents told you.
But, what we didn’t learn is that apologies aren’t appropriate in every situation and can harm our sense of self-worth.
It’s a skill to use these powerful words when they’re necessary. And it’s a skill to be mindful when we’re misusing them and break the I’m sorry habit. When we do, our confidence and self-worth grows by leaps and bounds.
Here’s the truth off what happens when you misuse the words I’m sorry; it makes others feel you don’t feel good about yourself and actually reinforces your feelings of self-doubt.
Research described in the book You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation indicates that “excessive” apologizing — like apologizing when you really don’t need to — can make others feel you lack competence or confidence.
Here are the 4 Truths of the I’m Sorry Habit
Saying I’m sorry is your way of seeking reassurance.
I’m sorry if I talk too much. I’m sorry by house is a mess.
This puts others on the spot to make you feel better. Notice how many times you say I’m sorry today. It’s exhausting and annoying for others to constantly reassure you.
If your messy house doesn’t bother YOU, that is all that matters. Love yourself enough to not need that validation from others.
Saying I’m sorry makes you and your needs smaller.
I’m sorry I’m so high maintenance. I’m sorry I’m exhausted and can’t make it tonight.
When you apologize for your existence, you belittle your needs.
So, you were unable to meet up with a friend because you got sick and of course you said, “I’m sorry.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa!!!
As if being ill is some negative virtue.
Or maybe, when you’ve been overworked and just want to relax you apologized for needing your own space. In reality, your friends weren’t offended or disappointed with you at all.
Remember, you aren’t a mind-reader. So stop assuming you know what others are thinking.
And most likely, if a friend couldn’t hang out because of exhaustion, you would understand without an apology.
Saying I’m sorry is your way of people-pleasing.
I’m sorry I can’t make it. I’m sorry I can’t donate to that cause.
When you apologize, you’re hoping someone says, “It’s okay.”
You don’t want to disappoint people. You want to help them. You want people to like you.
You don’t need to apologize when someone asks you to do something you don’t want to do. You don’t need to apologize for things you don’t have time to do, or attend, or accomplish, when other people ask. And you definitely don’t need to explain yourself. You can simply say “No” or “No thanks.”
According to psychologist Marsha M. Lineman, apologizing hinders us from building mutual respect. On your end, it is unhealthy to apologize for simply not wanting to do something or having a different opinion. Practicing the art of the unapologetic “No” will help you instill self-respect.
Remember, turning yourself into a doormat doesn’t help you one bit. Other people don’t learn to respect your time or your words. After all, how assertive does a no sound when you throw a bunch of sorries around it?
Saying I’m sorry gives your power away.
I’m sorry but I have a question. I’m sorry but I see it differently.
This makes you appear weak. Don’t be sorry for needing something more. Maybe the person offering the original explanation wasn’t really clear. When you apologize you make yourself small or wrong. It’s not about placing blame.
If you need clarity on something, ask with confidence. Don’t preface it with “I’ve got a question.” It sounds like you’re asking for permission to ask the question. Simply, ask the question.
Practice asserting your position and staying strong. Don’t apologize when you are rejecting a proposal, disagreeing with an idea or simply standing your ground in a conversation.
How Do You Stop Apologizing?
Start saying thank you instead of I’m sorry.
Instead of I’m sorry I’m late. Say, Thank you for your patience. Instead of I’m sorry I’m gluten free, say, Thank you for accommodating my order.
Saying thank you is how you take your power back. You’re acknowledging that you have needs and you appreciate people seeing them and helping you fulfill them. Once you start doing this, you’ll be surprised how much better you feel about yourself.
When Should You Apologize?
Saying you’re sorry when you’ve done something wrong? That’s different.
We all make mistakes. We all do things we need to apologize for: words, actions, omissions, failing to step up, step in, or show support.
In fact, admitting you’re wrong takes confidence and shows leadership.
If you’ve done something wrong, the first thing you should say is “I’m sorry.” The last thing you should do is add a disclaimer, like “But I was really mad because…” or “But I did think you were…” or include any statement in any way placing even the smallest amount of blame back on the other person.
Be certain that your apology is about them. There’s a huge difference between saying “I’m sorry you’re so sensitive” and “I’m sorry I upset you by saying X, Y. and Z.”
When you do something wrong you need to apologize.
Wrapping It Up
A lot of your apologies are unnecessary. Apologizing for your humanity, for getting sick, for being exhausted isn’t healthy. Be mindful and ask yourself if you’d want someone else to apologize in the same situation.
Have you ever been trapped in a conversation where the other person is over explaining, with no end in sight? How does it make you feel?
You may feel annoyed or even like the person is over explaining because they think you are stupid.
Or are you the person who is always over explaining?
Over explaining creates the exact opposite of what we are trying to accomplish!
It leaves others in the conversation:
Thinking about something else
Planning their rebuttal or reply
Wondering how to stop you from going on and on and on….
With an impression that you lack self-confidence and strategic thinking.
If you suffer from low self-esteem or people-pleasing, you may have an almost compulsive need to over explain.
Over explaining means describing something to an excessive degree, whereas oversharing is the disclosure of an inappropriate amount of information and detail about your personal life.
Some reasons driving you to over explain:
One: You might be doing this to keep yourself safe.
Over explaining is a common response for those who were often made to feel at fault as a child. At one point, the desire to please people provided safety. Now it has turned in to you defending yourself at every turn, justified or not. It has affected your ability to trust yourself and feel confident.
Two: You’re trying to avoid conflict, keep the peace and control the other person’s response.
It’s uncomfortable to be around someone who is angry or hurt or disappointed. If you’re giving someone information you fear they won’t like, it’s tempting to pile on explanations.
You believe if you can give a compelling enough reason for your choice, you can ensure the other person will see things your way. If you have enough solid reasons for your choice, maybe they won’t take it personally and be hurt.
Maybe if you can make them understand, they will still like you.
Three: You’re looking for someone to validate your decision.
You may feel the need to justify yourself or your decisions to make someone accept who you are and how you think because you are insecure about your choices.
While it doesn’t feel great to have people disagree with you, if you are confident about your own choices, you’re less impacted when someone doesn’t agree with you.
On the other hand, if you are unsure about your decision, you often look to others for reassurance. You over explain in the hope that the other person will understand and come around to your point of view. Often, it’s not really about the other person changing their mind as much as it is about needing external validation for your own choices.
Four: You’re trying to ease your own feelings of guilt.
Choosing something another person might not like can prompt feelings of guilt. When you feel guilty about your decision, you often turn to explanations an excuses to convince the other person and yourself that you have a very good reason for choosing the way you did.
You may believe, whether you realize it or not, that other people’s wants, needs, and feelings are more important than your own. This is a clear people-pleasing behavior.
You believe saying no or declining an invitation is selfish or rude. You think that to be kind, generous, and likable you must be unfailingly agreeable and accommodating.
Explaining doesn’t come with a set of rules, but,
Here’s a 3-step formula I use for crafting responses that are simple, kind and to-the-point.
Step 1: Get Clear about your intentions.
Why do you really want to explain? Spoiler alert: If it’s any of the 4 reasons above, you do NOT want or need to over explain.
Who do you want to be in this situation? Do you want to make the other person feel stupid? Do you want them to be annoyed? Or, do you want to be respectful of their time?
Step 2: Keep it simple.
Longer explanations don’t necessarily bring greater understanding. What is the most important thing you want the other person to know?
Step 3: Be Kind
Lead with gratitude. Then state your decision in as few words as possible. Finally, wish them well.
Here’s an example of how to decline an invitation without over explaining:
“Thanks so much for thinking of me! I won’t be joining you this time, but I hope you have lots of fun.”
Here’s another example on cancelling a membership to a mastermind group:
“Thank you for having me as part of this group. I’ve decided to cancel my membership at this time. Wishing you and the group continued success.”
Isn’t that way simpler and kinder than a string of excuses or agreeing with resentment?
This takes practice. Our *explanation habits* won’t change overnight. Take the time you need to get clear on your intentions and think through how you really want to respond.
Remember, if someone doesn’t ask for more explanation, it’s a clear sign they don’t want one.
Don’t forget to grab your free confidence building guide.
People can sniff out your underlying fear and self-doubt no matter how well you think you’re faking it. The mindset you show up with to a conversation determines the outcome.
These mindsets will help eliminate the overthinking and second-guessing you do after a conversation.
Your ability to collaborate and problem solve will improve. Your performance on the job and in your personal relationships will shift from conflict and confrontation to creating powerful partnerships.
You’ll notice these five mindsets have one thing in common. The conversation is not about you, even it is, it is NOT.
Mindset #1: We have a shared goal.
It could be that people just want to have a good time. Or we need to solve this problem. Keeping this shared goal in mind is great because it takes away any thoughts of “winning and losing.”
When you’re thinking about winning and losing, you’ll be subtly comparing yourself to others. Not a game you want to play.
With the mindset of “we have a shared goal,” you’re in a much better position to perform because your social compass will be pointing in the right direction.
Mindset #2: It’s not about me.
No one is judging you. They’re too busy wondering if you’re judging them.
Why do we think others are thinking the WORST about us?
Because of a wonderful concept called the negativity bias.
The negativity bias was a great thing for our ancestors. It was effective for avoiding sabretooth tigers. It’s not great for reading people’s minds at a dinner party.
When we’re in an uncertain environment, our brains constantly try to fill in the gaps. And our default mode as humans skews negative because staying alive is good.
Helpful reframe: We’re ALL hardwired to fear social judgment, so ask yourself: “How can I help OTHER people feel more accepted?”
The benefit here is twofold:
Awareness of the negativity bias will help you process those feelings of perceived judgment. You can even say to yourself: “Everyone is so focused on themselves. They aren’t thinking about me.” This will help you move on from that unproductive emotion.
This mindset is also helpful because it shifts your perspective from the internal (yourself) to the external (others). That’s a huge win.
It levels the playing field. If everyone struggles with perceived social judgment, you can be the person who helps buck the trend by helping people feel accepted.
Mindset 3: It’s not personal
Sometimes it’s easy to let your emotions get tangled up in things, especially if someone’s disagreeing or even attacking your position. Anger, blame, hurt and a bunch of other provocative emotions can be at play, and before you know it you’ve got a bigger problem than you ever thought.
Don’t make it personal – people are allowed to disagree with your position, just as you’re allowed to disagree with others.
By all means, be passionate, but that’s not the same as being defensive or coming out on the offensive with all guns blazing. The moment you start taking differences of opinion as personal criticism and judgement (even if that’s exactly what’s being thrown at you) you’ll be on the defensive or offensive, so balance that passion with the facts and a healthy sprinkling of common sense and perspective.
Mindset 4: I’m Curious
You assume you know what people are thinking, especially when it is something about you or something you’ve put effort into. You don’t have any psychic powers, but somehow you just know. And because you are so certain, you don’t bother to check out what is actually happening.
There could be facts you need to know about or areas you need to explore before taking action. Make sure you go deep enough into those areas to figure out the facts of what’s happening.
This is often a tricky balance between doing enough due diligence to be informed, checking in with your instincts and leveraging your experience to anticipate the different paths, and it means you have to put a hold on resolving the conflict until all parties can do their due diligence.
Be clear on what do you need to know and the most effective ways to get those answers. Work that out with an open mind and you’ll be in a stronger position to move forwards.
Mindset # 5: It’s okay if I’m wrong
If you’re wrong, admit it. Don’t hang on to your position just for the sake of wanting to be right – that’ll just get you into more hot water, is sure to waste everyone’s time and will probably end up with you looking or feeling silly.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking being wrong is undesirable, it isn’t. Allowing yourself to be wrong shows that you’re switched on enough to do the best thing for all concerned and find the best route through. It demonstrates that you’re lead by integrity and are willing to take on new ideas if they work better, even if that flies in the face of what you were thinking previously.
If you take this advice, it might actually save a relationship/friendship or two.
Oh, the irony. Someone who gives advice on a personal development blog giving the advice to not give advice and then giving some more advice. Well, it has to be said. And there are better ways to helping others solve their problems.
Of course, there are different forms of advice and different situations. If your friend is asking for your advice, there’s nothing wrong with giving them advice. Even if they are coming to you with an issue in their life, sometimes, given the situation, it can be okay to give advice depending on how it’s delivered.
Here we’re talking about unsolicited advice. Giving advice when the receiver doesn’t want it or ask for it regardless, whether they “need” it or not.
5 Reasons to STOP Giving Unsolicited Advice.
1. They don’t want your advice.
This reason alone should be a good enough reason to not give someone advice. We should at least respect that. If they didn’t ask, they probably don’t want it. If they genuinely wanted our advice, they would’ve asked. A lot of times people just want to vent and just want someone to listen. They either already know what to do or there is no decision to be made.
In that case, regardless of whether they “need to hear it” or not “you should’ve or shouldn’t have done this” might not always be helpful and can, in fact, be harmful.
Keep reading, you’ll see how harmful.
2. It assumes the other person does not have the knowledge or ability to handle the situation.
You gotta love when you tell someone you’re traveling to Europe and they respond with, “You know you should get a passport.” Wow. Really? Did I ask? Why does this person think I can’t figure that out myself?
When we tell someone what to do or what they should do, we’re unintentionally implying that we know better and that they’re emotionally or intellectually incapable of making that decision or knowing what to do in a particular situation.
It can be insulting to a lot of people if they feel as though their abilities are underestimated. And we, the almighty giver of advice, can sometimes end up looking like a fool.
Unsolicited advice is usually considered intrusive and can overstep boundaries. It can be patronizing and condescending. Giving advice can also be insensitive given certain situations.
We, as humans, thirst for approval. When we are given unsolicited advice, we feel criticized, we take it as rejection. This can be painful for us—some more than others. Besides that, being told what to do automatically triggers defensiveness.
People don’t like being told what to do. Me included. That’s partially why I love being an entrepreneur – being my own boss. Raise your hand if you’re a fellow entrepreneur loving the journey of figuring it out and having the freedom to ask for advice when you need it!
I digress. Back to it…
Depending on the advice, we can also be implying that the person needs to be saved or fixed. They may also feel judged because their decisions that were advised against were wrong. Judging the actions and decisions that person made. No one likes to be told they’re wrong either. It’s also telling them that you know better than they do.
3. Unsolicited advice can damage your relationships.
There are four types of social support—emotional support, esteem support, informational support, and tangible support. Informational support is just a fancy term for advice giving (not to be confused with information advice). Which types of support are more effective and least effective in supporting someone have been studied.
It also weakens communication. It can often end the conversation because the person feels judged and defensive.
4. Research has also found that receiving advice makes us feel less confident in ourselves and our abilities.
People are more likely to fail depending on how the advice is given. First of all, the decreased confidence can be destabilizing for those struggling with reaching their goal.
Many people can see advice as an attack. You’re not only challenging their competency and self-efficacy but their personal freedom to figure it out themselves as well.
Traditional advice (do this, do that) helps to persuade someone to agree with you, but it barely helps them learn and grow. Someone becoming angry and upset with you is not going to help them. It can actually create more problems.
But, bearing and taking responsibility for one’s own life leads to tremendous growth.
5. Very few people will follow through and act on unsolicited advice.
Even if it is excellent advice. Because of reactance theory, people will react with defensive defiance. Their personal freedom is being threatened, and they’ll want to make the best of their independent decision making. It stops the creative brainstorming that may lead to learning something new.
It’s kind of like what people sometimes like to call “reverse psychology.” People will do the opposite of what they’re told to do. I bet we can all think of several times in our lives when we rebelled for no other reason than someone told us what to do.
Keep in mind, I’m someone who enjoys helping others.
I’m conscious of when I’m giving advice. I make sure to listen.
As part of my coach training, I was trained to not give advice but instead to support and partner with people to help them find their best answers.
THIS. IS. HARD.
So many times, I think, I know the answer and I literally have to put my hand over my mouth to keep quiet. And then something amazing happens. This amazing person I’m coaching, finds the answer, the solution, the awareness, the aha. And you know what, that answer was NOT what I thought it was.
I truly believe that everyone is capable of finding their best way. And if their best way is asking me for advice then I give it.
If I have something I want to share, be it a past experience or piece of knowledge, you know what I do before I share?
I ask for permission to share. Yup. Ask for permission.
We all have ego’s and they get the best of us. No matter our good intentions, the desire to be the hero, to save someone, to be right, only serves to feed our ego. That is not helpful to anyone.
7 things to Do Instead of Giving Advice
Just be present and really hear the person out. Listening doesn’t just involve not saying anything. It requires actively listening. If we’re in our own head waiting to say something, we’re not listening. If we have internal dialogue going on, we’re not listening.
2. Ask Questions.
Fully try to understand the situation and place yourself in that person’s position. You don’t know everything. You can’t read their mind either. Ask them how they feel about it, why they feel or think that way, what they want to happen, what they’re going to do, etc.
People want to be acknowledged. Acknowledge their feelings, the struggle.
Help guide them through it. Instead of taking the authoritative and dominant position of telling them what they should and shouldn’t do, help them be the ones to solve their own problems. That way when they encounter future similar issues they are better able to tackle it.
It gives them a sense of independence and responsibility as well. It gives them the freedom to make their own decisions.
3. Show Empathy.
If it came down to just one thing to do instead of giving advice, it would be this. Even for those who wish to give advice. Empathy is essential. I can’t stress the importance of empathy enough.
In several studies, psychiatrist David Burns found, using advanced statistical techniques for distinguishing cause and effect, that a therapist’s ability to empathize is not only positively correlated with a patient’s progress but contributes to it as well. In other words, therapists’ empathy is a causation to the success of patients, not just a correlation.
Another study found that support is more likely to be effective when the person giving the support has higher empathic accuracywhich is how accurate someone can understand another person’s thoughts and feelings.
4. Give Emotional Support
This type of support can also include physical support like a hug or pat on back.
Another study on support by psychologists Lorenzo, Barry, and Khalifian at the Universities of Maryland and Wyoming analyzed the differences between emotional support and informational support. They found that people who receive emotional support feel better and have higher relationship satisfaction. For most people, emotional support is their preferred support to receive. Overall, emotional support over offering and giving solutions makes couples happier. Researchers suggest to default to emotional support rather than informational support to keep the doors of communication open.
5. Show confidence in them and their judgment that they are able to do what’s best for them.
People are the experts of their own lives. Expressing confidence in them will help give them confidence in themselves. Sometimes that’s all a person needs, and they will appreciate you for that. This can also be considered esteem support and often leads people to start believing in themselves more.
Someone being able to work through a situation and make a decision on their own, especially a tough one, can really help them grow and learn. We can’t learn and grow if someone is always making decisions for us.
6. Consider your situation and past life experiences.
If we don’t completely understand or have any experience or actual researched knowledge in their situation, it’s better to just be there for comfort, validation, and emotional support. Know that you can be a really great friend without having to give any advice whatsoever.
A lot of times someone just needs someone to talk to. That’s it.
What works for you or is right for you might not work or be right for another.
7. Consider other options and viewpoints than the one you have in mind.
Know that there is not one thing we know 100% of. We all have blind spots. There might be things that you’re overlooking or haven’t considered or thought of.
What piece or pieces of all this unsolicited advice are you going to follow?
Want to learn more on how to build and protect your confidence?
Kids with ADHD often interact in ways that can provoke negative reactions from peers.
Do any of these ADHD Behaviors sound like your child?
Dominating: Tries to dominate play or engage in ways that are too aggressive, demanding, and intrusive.
Bossy & Uncooperative: They may have trouble joining in with peers in the things their peers like to do. Instead, they may want to make their own set of rules, or engage in bossy, “unfair” or non-compliant ways, and generally may have a hard time knowing how to cooperate with other kids the same age.
Unaware of Social Cues: Many kids with ADHD have a hard time picking up on and reading social cues because of their struggle with attention.
Boredom and Distraction: Kids may become bored easily, get distracted and “check out” on friends.
Emotionally Reactive: Many kids with ADHD also have a hard time managing difficult feelings and can very quickly become overwhelmed, frustrated, and emotionally reactive.
What’s a Parent To Do?
Our kids do not want to talk with us about their challenges, and certainly not their social challenges.
Even so, there are things you can do to start building trust with your child. You want to be their safe place. They need a safe place.
The best place to start is by shedding your parenting cloak and show up as a coach for your child.
Here’s how to have a coaching conversation with anyone!
Use the PAUSE Method
Pause. Stop. Breath. Understand and take control of your emotions. The difference between an emotional reaction and a thoughtful response is the Pause.
Acknowledge. Acknowledge the other person’s feelings. Say, “I can see how important this is to you. I know this is a hard situation. I notice how much you care about this. I can hear in your voice how hurt you are.”
Understand. Get curious. Seek to understand the situation better before trying to fix it. Ask, “What else happened? What made you think that? What are you assuming? What is the worst thing about this? What is the best thing about this?
Solve. Partner with the other person to come up with solutions. You are not to fix-it for them. Ask, “What can you do about this? What do you have control over? What are your options? If you could do anything to fix this, no matter how crazy it sounds what would it be?”
Encourage. Nurture continued and future communication. Remind the person you are always available to listen. Be in a state of support, not judgement.
Coaching Conversations Guide Posts:
Always ask “What” Questions. Never “Why”. Why puts people on the defensive.
Always ask permission to share your opinion or your own story.
As I send my two oldest daughters off to college my fear of them sitting alone at lunch or hiding by the gym lockers have moved to fear of them locking themselves up in their dorm rooms isolated and lonely.
I think my own social anxiety is triggering these fears. In my heart, I know my girls will push through the “uncomfortable” that always accompanies new experiences. I’m also a realist and know anxiety is a heavy load to carry.
For some students, be it 6th graders, high schoolers or college students, another year of school is another year of anxiety filled moments. Academic stress, athletic competition, social pressures and personal insecurity makes the start of school overwhelming and intimidating.
So much focus is put on academics and we forget the highest anxiety moments are the social ones. Since when is lunch the highest stress point of a student’s day? Sadly, it is the reality for more students than you’d think.
For students who live with ADHD, anxiety and depression, the “back-to-school” period is especially troubling. For many the fear of the unknown – like a new teacher, new school, or new schedule – can cause or exacerbate feelings of social anxiety. For students with ADHD these fears are magnified as their over-active minds play out one potential social catastrophe after another.
Does it surprise you that lot’s of people are lonely and disconnected, despite our on-line connections of friends, followers and likes?
We’re missing out on the positive effects of sharing smiles and hugs with all this technology. When you add ADHD to the mix, the problem gets worse.
Some ADHD quirks get in the way of making and holding on to friends. Friendships depend on us being on time and being at the right place to meet; remembering names; remembering people’s stories; not putting foot in mouth; listening — not interrupting; not getting too close too quickly; being able to tolerate frustration; managing emotions, being patient.
You’ve Got Lots to Offer
On the flip-side, ADD’ers are, in many ways, gifted in friendships — being warm, generous, forgiving, and intuitive. Sadly, these great qualities aren’t recognized enough because the other quirky challenges of ADHD get in the way.
Friendships cost nothing but time and attention.
But they rely on us taking initiative. When one person is always the one to keep in touch, it gets old and the friendship eventually dies. Tending to your current friends is crucial. You have to check in with a person regularly to make sure the friendship stays healthy.
Think of one person you’d like to connect with more. Someone who you share a genuine and mutual connection with…..even if it’s been awhile since you’ve talked.
Consider these four reasons why friendships are so important to our health and well-being before brushing this aside.
Parents speak out on “what things are keeping them up at night about ADHD for their family.
“Will my daughter find people who can support her while she works on her social skills? Friends that can understand she can be inappropriate or come off as thoughtless. She just doesn’t have that awareness yet.
“Can my son learn skills he needs to take care of himself?
“I worry about my daughter socially more than ever. She gets bored with things…..and people very quickly.”
“The biggest concern I now have with my son is how to help him deal with anxiety.”
“I worry a lot about how my son would fit in, in the real world as an adult.”
“Will my daughter be able to manage on her own, get a job, hold a job, get bills paid?
Can you relate? Worrying about how our kids will manage as adults is natural. We spend so much time worrying about algebra test scores we miss what is “missing”. Do we know our kids social intelligence score? Our kids need social muscle to achieve independence.
Those with ADHD frequently struggle with friendships. They’re often isolated and withdrawn. Some choose not to socialize. If they do, they may be rejected.
Worse, isolation and rejection may lead to other problems like depression and anxiety.