How many times have you apologized this week?
What did you apologize for?
Did someone bump into you?
Did you ask your boss a question?
Did the restaurant get your order wrong?
Did you offer your opinion?
"It's some sort of epidemic," said Adrienne Wallace, strategist at Red Ginger Creative.
"It reminds me of the word literally. There is not much literal about it anymore—it has become a duplicate for honestly or really or very or actually instead of a literal statement. The impact of the phrase I'm sorry has diminished over time as a result of overuse. I'm sorry is the new throw pillow. Totally useless, but makes people feel comfortable when they look at them."
There is value in apologizing when we have fallen short of expectations. When we make mistakes. Cause accidents. Hurt someone. But there's a difference between apologizing to someone because we have wronged him or her, and then chronically apologizing out of habit.
How often does sorry replace pardon me, excuse me, I have a question, I have something to say?
"I think part of that is because women are more sensitive to other people's feelings," said Jackie Taylor, Ph.D., a consultant at Pondera Advisors. "We always want them to feel in the right or comfortable."
But is it our job to make others feel comfortable? Is saying sorry too much being overly sensitive to how others are feeling? Maybe even at the expense of our own feelings? Even if it was our job to always ensure others feel at ease, sorry is not intended to make others feel comfortable in conversation with us.
Sorry is not polite.
Apologizing is intended to right a wrong, and rampant use of sorry can harm relationships or cause unhealthy power dynamics.
It's time to take back sorry.
A little self-reflection and awareness is the first place to start. We may not even realize how often we're saying sorry.
"If you can't be trusted, enlist one of your friends to tally up your I'm sorry's throughout the day," Wallace said.
"It will be a rude awakening, I'm sure."
You could always try the good ol' rubber band trick to snap out of it, or start a sorry jar.
It's not just about recognizing how often we're saying sorry. We need to recognize when you're using the behavior.
"I have seen this play out during meetings and individual conversations," said Jennifer Maxson, president, Jennifer Maxson & Associates. "When individuals become passionate about their point of view, I have seen others apologize just to end the conversation."
How are you using sorry? To end a difficult conversation? To qualify your opinion? Are you apologizing when someone bumps into you? When the restaurant gets your order wrong?
Understand when you should apologize.
We simply have to ask ourselves one question: Have we done something wrong?
Choose a different response.
"If you know you are walking into a tough conversation and your style is one to always apologize, take the time to prepare what you want to say and how you are going to say it," Maxson said. "Then say it out loud. Get comfortable with how you are going to respond."
Replace sorry with thank you.
"A proper apology is not just stammering the words I'm sorry," said Wallace.
Yet how often do we sputter sorry when we are just a few minutes meeting a friend or vent a little too much about work at dinner?
Rather than apologizing for basic human tendencies, say thank you. Appreciate others for waiting for you, for listening to you, for understanding how you're feeling. That's what relationships are for. You don't have to feel bad for every minor inconvenience. Save apologies for when you feel remorse for a mistake or for hurting someone.
Understand you have a right to your opinion.
"We really want to focus on quality and equality in our discussions," said Dr. Taylor. "You may not get your way, but you will always be able to have your say."
Whether in business or personal relationships, you have a right to your own opinion. When you're constantly apologizing for what you think, believe or feel, it indebts you to another person.
Sorry, but ... You don't have to apologize for your thoughts, ideas or feelings.
Written by Cassie Westrate.