I am an over-apologiser. I say sorry more times a day than I can count. I say sorry if someone bumps into me (into ME) – ‘sorry I was in your way’. I somehow end up saying sorry to the person that has offended me (again, they offended ME) . I say sorry to the person that I have to ask for the tenth time at work to send me an email so I can do my job – ‘so sorry to bother you about this again.’ WHAT? Why the hell am I sorry? It’s almost like I use the word sorry as a crutch and it’s time to stop apologising for things I’m not sorry for at all. I feel like I lose a piece of myself and my power every time it comes flying out my mouth when it shouldn’t, yet it keeps happening.
Instead of saying sorry, what I should be saying is thank you, or you’re welcome – or really, any other word in the english language other than sorry, because sorry is a word used for when you have done something wrong and while I ain’t no saint, I sure as hell am not doing the wrong thing a billion times a day either. But still, I feel this people-pleasing need to apologise all the damn time.
I’m not alone. Study after study shows that women all over the world overuse ‘sorry’. I don’t think it’s something that’s exclusive to our gender but it definitely seems to be more of a female thing, am I right?
So we should stop. I don’t think it’s what we’re saying that’s the problem, but what we’re not saying. The sorrys are taking up valid space that should be used for more meaningful communication; saying how we really feel, for giving our true opinions, even if it’s not always going to be popular.
Lena Dunham wrote about this very subject of saying sorry on her blog and this is some of what she had to say;
“Apologizing is a modern plague and I’d be willing to bet that many women utter ‘I’m sorry’ more on a given day than ‘Thank You”‘ and ‘You’re Welcome’ combined.
I say sorry all day, which doesn’t make sense considering I’m not a warlord, a drunk driver, or a pizza delivery guy speeding down 6th Avenue on a fixed gear bike scaring the shit out of pedestrians. I am a woman who is sometimes right, sometimes wrong but somehow always sorry. And this has never been more clear to me than in the six years since I became a boss.
It’s hard for many of us to own our power, but as a 24-year-old woman (girl, gal, whatever I was) I felt an acute and dangerous mix of total confidence and the worst imposter syndrome imaginable. I had men more than twice my age for whom I was the final word on the set of Girls, and I had to express my needs and desires clearly to a slew of lawyers, agents and writers. And while my commitment to my work overrode almost any performance anxiety I had, it didn’t override my hardwired instinct to apologize. If I changed my mind, if someone disagreed with me, even if someone else misheard me or made a mistake… I was so, so sorry.
It was actually my father who gave me the challenge: “What would happen if you spent this week NOT apologizing?”
The next day I tried to accept his challenge. But what do you replace sorry with? Well for starters, you can replace it with an actual expression of your needs and desires. And it turns out when you express what you want (without a canned and insincere apology) everyone benefits. Your employees know what you want from them and can do their jobs with clarity and pride. The dynamic remains healthy and open. You feel 79 percent less shame.
I won’t say my father’s experiment cured me. After all, I’ve been apologizing profusely since 1989 — like pigs in blankets and reading celebrity gossip, it’s not a habit easily broken. But it illustrated a better way. Something to strive for. When I replaced apologies with more fully formed and honest sentiments, a world of communication possibilities opened up to me. I’m just sorry it took me so long.”
Well said sister.
I’m no longer using ‘sorry’ as my crutch. If you’re my waiter and you forget to bring me my water and I ask again, I am not going to apologise for asking you again No more sorrys from me. Well, unless of course I have done something that really warrants a sorry, then of course you can have my full meaningful sorry, but no more unjustified sorrys. I am vowing to apologise, only when I am truly sorry.
Who is with me?