Why You Should Stop Saying “I’m Sorry” For Everything You Do

It’s a common scenario: someone bumps into you, you quickly stutter “I’m sorry,” as they move their way past you with no acknowledgement or apology of their own. You assume you must have been in their way, and to demonstrate that, you apologize to them in order to portray that you’re the reasonable and agreeable one. But did you really do anything wrong, and should you really admit fault? Many of us are guilty of turning the word sorry from an expression of remorse into an accustomed, automatic reaction to everyday confrontations, some of which may not even be our own wrongdoings.

Although it may seem harmless to unnecessarily apologize for meaningless things, the habit can have a negative impact on not only how people perceive you, but how you value yourself. According to Juliana Breines, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow at Brandeis University, overapologizing can stem from being too hard on ourselves or from feelings of  guilt and shame. The problem is, constantly asking for forgiveness can reinforce the inaccurate belief that we deserve this blame from others.

There has been increased attention on the issue recently, especially when it comes to women, from Amy Schumer’s “I’m Sorry” skit, that commented on the propensity for even strong, professional women to apologize for the most inconsequential blunders, to Sloane Crosley’s op-ed in the New York Times criticizing women’s desire to seem polite through acceptance of blame. Although the issue isn’t gender-specific, these recent headlights on the issue showcase the growing social norms surrounding inessential, incessant apologies, and the repercussions they can have.

Needles to say, if you really have messed up, taking ownership over your wrongdoing is an admirable and encouraged response, but if you’re someone who apologizes to your server over a request for a utensil, you are sending the message that their misstep somehow falls on you. You’re choosing to be easygoing and agreeable rather than assertive and honest, and others will pick up on this attitude and begin to treat you the same way.

If you’re a chronic apologizer, there are still ways to remain friendly and likable without forsaking your self-worth and innocence. When you catch yourself with the urge to say sorry, consider using one of these few tactics to diminish the phrase from your everyday vocabulary.

1. Start Paying Attention To When You Say Sorry

Are you saying “sorry” as a way to enter a conversation? Do you say it when you’re uncomfortable? Was it really your mishap? Noticing when the the phrase slips from your mouth can help you identify the most frequent sentiments behind the expression. Count how many times you say sorry a day, and try to lower that number over time.

2. Find A New Response

Sometimes all you need is an “excuse me,” or a “thank you” to replace an “I’m sorry,” such as in the case of starting a conversation or acknowledging that your roommate cleaned the apartment today. Other times, it’s as simple as expressing your feelings and letting them stand on their own, without culpability.

3. Think Of Sorry As A Sacred Word

People don’t throw around the phrase “I love you” in relationships lightly, and the same should go for “I’m sorry.” Save the apologies for when you really mean it, and your repentance will seem more sincere. Tossing apologies around can make it seem like you’re okay with frequent misconduct.

Photo by miss_rogue