Be You: Stories of Self-Discovery… Sorry. Not Sorry.

I am woman.  Hear me apologize.

As women, we tend to say sorry for every little thing we think we do wrong.  Now, sometimes an apology is necessary, but there are a lot of times when it isn’t, and we need to learn the difference.

A couple of weeks ago, at the grocery store, a woman bumped into me with her cart while I was looking at something.  The first words out of my mouth were, “I’m sorry.” She looked up at me and said, “That’s OK,” and kept walking.  It didn’t dawn on me until later that I didn’t do anything to apologize for, but my natural inclination was to apologize.   The next couple of days I paid attention to how often I would say I was sorry for things that I shouldn’t have, and decided I needed to make a change.

Research suggests that women may sometimes be over-attuned, apologizing for perceived offenses that other people do not find offensive or even notice.

If you suspect you may be an over-apologizer, here are some tips for keeping your apologies in check.

  1. Say “Thank you” instead.

I love this.  It was hard for me to start doing, but once I did, I felt empowered.  No longer would I say I was sorry for running late, I would say “Thank you for your patience.”  By saying you are sorry, you are acknowledging that you have made a mistake or inconvenienced someone, but thanking them shows that you have thought about the situation from their perspective and that you appreciate their effort.

  1. Save it.

Saying sorry too much takes away the impact for when you really have messed up.  It becomes a more powerful statement when it is used less.

  1. Try not to mess up in the first place.

Easier said than done, of course. But if you know you do something annoying that you always have to apologize for, how about changing?  If you always leave getting gas until the light is on, how about making an effort to go earlier, so you don’t have to apologize when your partner has to get it.

  1. Know where to draw the line.

Apologize for what you have done wrong.  Don’t take on what others have done.  All that does is make you feel bad about yourself and can cause resentment to form.

  1. Finally, embrace your imperfections.

Who cares if you spilled coffee on your shirt? Unless you apologize to yourself, there is no need to say it to anyone else.

The next time you find yourself saying, “Sorry,” – stop. Take a second.  Think about whether “sorry” is the right response.  You will be surprised to find out how often it isn’t.


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