Why Women Need to Stop Apologizing

What? Stop apologizing! You might be thinking, “Apologies are my way of showing respect lest I appear insensitive or rude.”

I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a place for apologies in our lives, but most women apologize ad nauseum, which puts them at a disadvantage. When we constantly say, “I’m sorry” for a perceived upset in the other person, (which may have nothing to do with us!), for not being understood, for speaking out, we’re taking responsibility for someone else’s feelings, diminishing ourselves at the same time.

A woman breaking her apology habit

Even when it’s clear that we’re in the right, there’s a tendency to preface an objection with “I’m sorry,” as in noticing that someone has cut in front of you in the grocery store line where you say, “I’m sorry, but I was next.”

How many times a day do you say, “I’m sorry?”

I bet more than you think because it’s automatic for many women. We’ve been conditioned as female children to seek approval, to put relationships first. Our endless apologies stem from this training, or our mother’s reminders to “be polite.” Politeness is key to turning little girls into Stepford wives.

Rebecca Solnit in her new book, The Mother of All Questions, reflects on politeness:

“What we call politeness often means training that other people’s comfort matters more.”

Anger, coated with an apology, is counter-productive

This tendency to put other people’s well being ahead of ours feeds a woman’s tendency to avoid conflict. I’ve been in two different women’s spiritual communities founded on a deep concern for the sacred and for working towards a peaceful world. Both of these communities unraveled when differences emerged. I think it was largely because these groups were without a healthy model for working through conflict.

For most of us the principal model for resolving differences is the male one of domination where the loudest voice often wins the day. None of us wants to repeat this model, but the deficit model for resolving conflict isn’t our only option.

When conflict is addressed in an egalitarian manner, we’re presented with a growth model of conflict and one where the relationship isn’t severed. (Fear of losing the relationship often operates unconsciously in women, and is a major reason why they avoid conflict.)

Women demonstrating a healthy model of conflict resolution

Fifteen years ago I was part of women’s radio show where we couldn’t walk away from differences because we had to pull together to produce a weekly hour’s long program. It was demanding because, besides a famous guest, we had several components to the program. Our desire to create the best possible show meant we had to be thick skinned and vote down someone whose ideas seemed unworkable.We cared for one another so we learned to disagree respectfully and with humor. I loved all those women and miss them to this day. I wish I could bottle our conflict model. I might make a fortune.

Women overcoming their differences to unite for change.

As women band together to challenge Trump, we have to stop apologizing for our positions; we have to face our fears of conflict. The world needs strong women with strong voices.

Let’s cut back on all those “I’m sorry’s.” They’re taking up valuable airtime that would be better used for standing up for what we believe in.