Individual Leadership

Sorry, not sorry. Why apologizing all the time is a bad idea.

Written by Dylan Gerstley

2 Min Read

Today’s culture has made apologizing for everything an almost automatic response. But, rather than symbolizing a rise in polite behavior, it signifies a dip in our confidence. You may not think you over apologize, but how often do you say sorry when something was clearly out of your control, like when you sneeze, or you walk through a door at the same time as someone else, or when someone spills their coffee on their new shirt?

Apologizing, of course, isn’t always a bad thing. The problem is with over apologizing, or offering an apology out of habit when one really wasn’t needed. Here are a few things to consider about over apologizing, and some ideas of what you can say instead of “Sorry.”

Emphasizes the wrong qualities

From a young age, many of us are taught to bake apologies into our behavior, but saying sorry doesn’t automatically mean others will see you as a nice and caring person. In fact, all that apologizing may just make you seem weak or timid. Beverly Engel, author “The Power of An Apology”, warns “It [over apologizing] can even give a certain kind of person permission to treat you poorly or even abuse you.”

Is that how you want people to remember you?

Less confident people open themselves up to being treated with a lack of respect, and that can lead to sticky situations down the line.

Creates the wrong impression

Beyond potentially sending a message of low confidence, over apologizing can lead to a bit of a “boy who cried wolf” situation. If you’re always saying sorry for each small transgression throughout the day, does your apology for a significant event carry the same weight? Times that truly warrant a heartfelt sorry may not feel as authentic when people know you apologize 100 times a day.

Saying sorry too often can also come off as annoying and bothersome to others. If you apologize before you’ve even done something (e.g., “I’m sorry to bring this up…), you could make the person you’re talking to feel like they have some kind of personality trait that scares you and forces you to apologize for no reason. No one wants to feel scary, right?

What to say instead

All this being said, apologies have their time and place. We just need to be more mindful of knowing when to say sorry or adjusting our approach to accomplish the same goal.

In a crowded area and need to let someone by? Try “Here, let me step aside for you,” instead of “Sorry, I’ll get out of your way.”

Instituting a positive, more mindful communication style that doesn’t involve a “sorry” increases mutual respect. And best of all? It’s still polite!

Growing into a mindful apologizer is serious business, but if you’re worried you may be an over apologizer, consider checking out the Just Not Sorry plugin for Google Chrome. It catches language that amounts to apologizing and helps keep you mindful about your sorries in your emails!

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