Why We Should Say “I’m Sorry” Less
I’m giving this a try and I think you should too.
Sorry, not sorry. Still not sure where this phrase came from — could be from the song of the same name by a band called AMEN, could be from the popular hashtag on Twitter in 2011. It doesn’t really matter.
I have recently noticed that I have fallen into the imperceptible trap of over-apologizing. It’s not a fascinating new trend or a particular character trait — it is simply a tendency to apologize for the things that don’t really require it in the first place.
My friends were laughing when I was pardoning myself after bumping into the doorjamb (what can I do — I’m clumsy!). The thing is that it became such an automatic habit that the brain stops being aware of the situations where an apology is necessary.
My social anxiety adds fuel to the need of apologizing for everything. At least here there is a psychological reason behind it, the desire to be liked and accepted by others, the fear of being judged and left out by the group.
There are more than just one reason for the need for compulsive apologizing — from the fear of conflict to the demonstration of politeness. For example, from early childhood, we are taught that we need to say “Sorry” to show respect to the adults, but this kind of unconscious behavior is what makes you repeat it over and over again like a broken record.
The reasons behind over-apologizing can go on, mostly related to the norms in society and habits. As superficial as it may look, it can actually have a negative effect on your work and personal lives.
Why is it not good for you?
At work constant apologizing can look like a sign of insecurity and self-doubt. In our professional lives, being firm can benefit career and business development and showcase a strong character, especially when it comes to leadership that requires a backbone.
You diminish your personal value unconsciously when you keep over-apologizing without a reason. Sorry to bother? Sorry, but you disagree? Sorry, can you ask the question? In fact, there is nothing to be sorry about here, but your habit pattern makes you say it once again. Sorry.
The ability to apologize can be seen as a strength when it used right, but excessive usage of excusal words lowers their value. It is widely accepted that apologizing is the way of one person to show respect to another. There is nothing wrong with having good manners and respecting others, but you can be polite without saying “I’m sorry”.
Here is what to say instead
I, with all my heart and mind, believe that focusing on the positive aspects of our daily lives can improve our being. When saying “I’m Sorry” your mind shifts to the negative thinking picking up the pieces of why are you sorry, have you done something wrong, are you a bad irresponsible person, etc.
The good news is that we can control our thoughts are our words.
Your choice of words can change the game completely and help improve personal relationships with the people you are in contact. Here are two sample emails, which one would you prefer to receive?
Hi, I am so sorry to ask you this, but can we change the priority in tasks for this week? I hate to do this, but we need to rearrange the priorities. Once again, sorry to bother you.
Hi, I wanted to ask you if we can change the priority in tasks for this week. I appreciate our collaboration and know that sudden change may have a negative effect, but we need to rearrange the priorities. Thank you for understanding and being flexible in this question.
The meaning of what is said stays the same, yet the tone makes it different.
If you not sure how you can replace “Sorry” in a sentence, try saying “Thank you”. The positive tone shifts the focus to your companion, making them feel valued and appreciated, which improves the overall tone of the conversation and makes further discussion less uncomfortable.
Instead of “Sorry, I’m late” say “Thank you for your patience”
Instead of “Sorry, but I disagree” say “I have a different opinion and I’d like to contribute”
Instead of “Sorry to bother you” say “May I have a moment of your time?”
Instead of “Sorry, may I ask you a question?” say “May I ask you a question? I would like to know your opinion”
If you don’t know what to say, say “Thank you for understanding”
It is important to know when to say it
“Sorry” is more than just a way of being polite, so save it for the two times when it really matters — when you feel bad for somebody or when you actually screw up.
Heartfelt apologies can benefit your relationships and create a base for more open and understanding communication (but try not to be wrong in the first place), but they are much harder to come across because admitting your guilt is much scarier and no one wants to feel vulnerable and possibly rejected.
Admitting you’ve done something wrong takes real strength, but compulsive apologizing at work and your personal life can damage your relationships with others and your personal value.
Like changing any habit of learning to avoid saying “Sorry” comes with awareness and practice. When you realize how replacing it with other words and especially “Thank you” benefits you and those around you, it will become much easier. You might even notice a boost in your confidence and better mood, so why not give it a try?
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