If you’re short on time, you can listen to this article as a podcast! This article serves as a transcript for Episode 007 of Imperfection with Intention. Listen to the episode below!
Today I’m talking about saying, “sorry” too often. With my goal for this year being that I want to be intentional in everything I do, the words I choose to say also should be intentional, and with purpose.
This brought on a period where I was keenly aware of messages I was trying to convey. At first, it was odd to be aware of the words I was saying. Not just the normal, “Think before you speak”. But actually taking into account the actual words that I said and what patters I had.
There were A LOT of patterns I had, but one of the most shocking things I noticed was that I apologized. A LOT.
I noticed I would say sorry to someone behind me that was also in the line to use the restroom. Or even apologizing to someone when they asked if I was vegan (because I thought I should feel bad for taking the time to explain what I ate, even though THEY asked.)
I know this topic has been brought up a lot in recent years. A simple google search will give you (a google) of results. But I can’t help but think this would be for good reason. I know if I noticed that pattern in my life, I’m not the only one.
So in this episode, I’m going to go over examples of over apologizing that you may notice that YOU’RE doing, why you should think before you apologize, other options you can say instead and what a genuine apology looks like.
Examples of over apologizing
Over Apologizing (especially in the work place) can make you seem weaker than you are. Because when you’re saying that you’re sorry (in any form) you’re saying that it’s YOUR fault the situation is as it is.
Maybe that you’re at a restaurant with colleagues and the table is wobbly and you accidentally shake it by setting your drink down. Then you say “sorry” afterward.
How is that YOUR fault the table is wobbly? I’m sure all the other people at the table have made it wobble before you, so why are you apologizing for it?
I’ve done this type of thing often, so I decided to understand all the ways this was happening and WHY I was doing this.
So, when I was (and still am) doing this “social experiment” on myself and really started to realize how OFTEN I was apologizing, I noticed a few specific patterns.
The “I’m sorry to bug you..”
I saw myself typing that to my manager on Slack (an app some businesses use to communicate). I’m relatively new to the company and I used it to ask her two questions in the course of one day, and I thought that was SO excessive, I needed to apologize for it. Even though SHE was the one to say, “Use this to communicate with me anytime you have questions”
This is one that I have had such a hard time with cutting out of my vocabulary. But I think this one is so important.
Here’s a few things to point out with the “I’m Sorry to Bug You…” line:
- This undercuts what your point is before you say it.
- It makes it sound like you aren’t sure what you’re talking about.
- More likely than not, the person you’re saying that do already told you to reach out to them, so this may make it sounds like you weren’t paying attention to that.
The “I’m Sorry, but…”
Why is it that some of us as “sorry” leading up to a statement we KNOW is true?
“Sorry but, I got charged for an extra shot of expresso in my coffee I didn’t get”
Here’s a few things to point out with the “I’m Sorry, but…” line:
- Again, it undercuts the point you’re trying to make before you even say it.
- Again, makes it sound like you’re unsure of the point that you’re trying to make (similar to saying, “I think..” before an opinionated statement instead of just knowing.
“Apologizing” during an argument
Speaking about this is a public setting isn’t very easy for me to do. It shows you that I can be vindictive. Obviously, portraying myself in this way is pretty uncomfortable to do, but I think it’s really important for ALL of us to be honest about our strengths AND our faults. If we can have a more open and honest discussion about the ugly parts of ourselves, it might be easy for us to face.
Now that my personal rant is over.. Let’s get to the point!
(side note.. I originally typed “sorry for the rant” and went back to correct myself. I’m still learning. ☺️
It’s easy to to use an apology to deflect in an argument. An apology can be use to cloak the words you really want to say.
There are two types that I would use in arguments…
- Using it sarcastically and pretending to “apologize” for something that I obviously think I should’t apologize for. Like “I’m sorry that you didn’t like me asking to take out the trash”
- Twisting my “apology” around to place blame on the person I was arguing with. Like, “I’m sorry that YOU took my words like that.” Placing the emphasis on the other person implicating that they didn’t understand what I was saying.
Perhaps a way to fix this is trying to engage further and actually figure out WHY the person I’m arguing with feels that way instead of just patronizing them.
Why you should think before you apologize
There are plenty more reasons why you should think before you apologize than listed here. These two are just what stuck with me personally. I would recommend taking a few minutes to sit and reflect on how you say you’re sorry. Make this tailored to you!
Remember, These are just suggestions. And not all people are the same, some of these may resonate with you and some may not, and that’s ok!
It may sound fake and cloud what you’re trying to say
Forbes said it best in an article they posted about the subject “Unwarranted apologies not only bloat your speech and detract from the clarity of your message, but also dilute the power of the phrase to a point where it may come off as disingenuous.“
When you apologize for things that you don’t mean or that wasn’t your fault, it makes what you’re saying dishonest. It may even lead those around you not trust what you’re saying!
Like when you say the same word over and over or type it out, it doesn’t look real.
Women have a tendency to over apologize than men
As I did some research to be able to chat about this with you. I found as I continued to read, my guess was right. Women typically apologize more than men.
As I read more into this, I thought this was a really important point to discuss.
In the face of movements like #MeToo and #TimesUP, the conversation of the way women are treated as far as sexual harassment and assault has opened the door to have discussions about less black and white aspects.
Meaning that everyone can agree that harassment and assault are bad and can agree this DOES actually happen to women.
But, it becomes more grey when we talk about less obvious topics like how women are groomed to be more “delicate” and have goals of being like the “nice, girl next door”.
It’s easier to have arguments around the validity of these kinds of statements. It’s not easy to clearly see on someone, and even difficult for people to see this in themselves. Myself included.
I thought for a long time the best part of myself was that I was “nice”. I also thought (subconsciously) in order to keep this as my #1 identifier, I should avoid conflict and almost bend my personality to match whoever I was talking to.
And often, that would include adding a blank apology for something I said or did. Or that would just end up with staying quiet.
As I say this, and you recogignize this in yourself (regardless if you’re a women OR a man) know that you are not alone.
And you can and SHOULD feel proud enough of who you are to say what you feel, unapologetically.
A quick side note
I want to make it known that not ALL women have a tendency to do this. Just like I know there’re men out there that over apologize as well.
In the same line of thinking, there are plenty of women who are jerks that actually SHOULD apologize for their actions that don’t.
Just like how some of the nicest, most selfless people I’ve ever met were men. The human race as a whole can’t fit nicely into buckets, obviously!
Now that we got THAT out of the way, let’s get to a few alternatives when you’re feeling the urge to say “sorry”.
Alternatives to “I’m Sorry”
This list can be found on an article on nbcnews.com
Instead of saying “I’m sorry,” say:
- “excuse me.”
- “pardon me”
- “go ahead”
- “after you”
- “your turn”
Instead of saying “sorry to interrupt you,” say:
- “ I’d like to add…”
- “I have an idea….”
- “I’d like to expand on that…”
Instead of saying “sorry to complain,” switch it to:
- “Thank you for listening…”
Instead of apologizing in an email, consider saying:
- “Thank you for catching that….”
- “I appreciate you bringing this error to my attention….”
- “Thanks for flagging this issue for me…”
If you’re running a little late, instead of saying sorry, consider:
- “Thank you for waiting for me…”
A genuine apology
Just because you may have a goal of cutting out your meaningless apologies, that doesn’t mean you get to be a jerk, right?
When you do something that you ACTUALLY feel apologetic and that regret for, then you SHOULD apologize. But instead of just saying “I’m sorry” or just “sorry” (just like you would with an empty apology) get specific with WHY you feel that way. Offer a way to fix it! Sometimes there isn’t, but at least being open to the idea of a meaningful dialog is enough to mend that relationship.
When you DO apologize, do it only once. As someone who is guilty of profusely apologizing, this is something I really have a hard time with.
Let’s say you give a perfect heart felt apology for something that you actually feel that way about and that actually IS your fault. If you follow that up by saying “Again, so sorry about that” multiple times, it’s like you’re chipping away at the authenticity of that original heartfelt one.
This minisode turned out to be a little longer than I anticipated it to, but it rang so true to me. This subject turned out be like an onion, there were more layers to this than I thought!
I’d LOVE to know what you thought about this episode! Tag me on social media @MindfullyMonica and let me know if you’ve been apologizing a little too much.
And as always I would REALLY appreciate it if you could leave a review of this episode. If you got something out of this or felt inspired and want to see more content like this, leaving a review where ever you listen to podcasts is a really easy and FREE way to help the show.
THANK YOU for listening, and I’ll see you next week!