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.