24 October 2010

Stop Apologizing


How often do you say those two words?  If you're a woman, probably way more often than you should.  All too often I hear women apologizing.  Just over the last few days, I have witnessed the following incidents:
  1. A female co-worker is walking down the hallway and a male student, goofing around with his friends, bumps into her.  She immediately turns and says, "Oh, I'm sorry."
  2. A friend and I are having a good natured debate.  At one point in the conversation, she exclaims, "I'm sorry, but that's how I feel."
  3. A woman walks into a store at the mall and trips over a stack of shoe boxes left haphazardly by the door.  As she rights herself, she apologizes to the sales staff and offers to help pick up the strewn boxes.
  4. A teary-eyed female student keeps apologizing for being a burden when I offer to help her develop some tactics to overcome her test anxiety issues. 
Why are these women apologizing?  They have done nothing wrong.  I hear women exclaim, "I'm sorry" without even thinking if it is appropriate.  It seems to be so ingrained into the female of the human species that it is usually an automatic, hair-trigger response.

I used to do the Sorry thing too.  I said "I'm sorry" to so many people so often during any given week that it lost all meaning.  And when I took an inventory of the situations that prompted the "I'm sorry, " I quickly realized that almost none of them warranted this exclamation.  I felt like a fraud.  I was ready for a change.

It took time, but I no longer blurt out "I'm sorry" unless I actually am remorseful.  These days, I don't diffuse situations or placate others with those two little words, unless it's actually warranted.  I have found more effective methods of communication that allow me to be pleasant without handing away my integrity and self worth.  I now know that it is possible to be self assured without being rude or brash.

So, I urge every woman out there to turn in her Sorry Gang membership card.  I won't lie, it will be hard at first, but in the end you will feel more genuine and true to yourself - it truly is liberating.

20 comments:

deb said...

Perfect post!! This is similar to using swear words to communicate. They're often a mindless flow of words tumbling out of our mouths. They're the easy way out when we think we need to say something, but don't want to think about what we're saying. There are better and more effective ways to get the point across. In the case of the shoe boxes, the woman should have asked a question instead -- why did the store leave those boxes where customers could trip on them? Customers have a right to expect safety in store environments. That's the store's responsibility and an indignant demanding question when a customer trips is totally warranted. But as you are saying, if the customer says “I’m sorry” the customer is assuming some responsibility. This is not the customer’s responsibility.

Victoria said...

You're so very true! I used to be so guilty of this and am less now (I think)! This is a good post, definitely food for thought!

Gertie said...

Great post! It's true that so many women are guilty of this.

I've also noticed the words "I'm sorry" preceding something kind of offensive lately. Like, "I'm sorry, but she does NOT have the body to wear that" or something. Just because one faux-apologizes first doesn't give one the right to say mean things!

I think the funny thing about offering so many little unnecessary apologies is that it makes heartfelt apologies more difficult. When I truly need to apologize for something, I have the hardest time spitting the words out. What's that all about?

Farah said...

I have also been trying not to say 'I'm sorry' when i don't mean it. Overusing a word can strip it of it's meaning. I hate to say that woman have been socialized to accept blame for things, so we are compelled to apologize, but that may be part of it. I think a lot of it is manners, and trying to be considerate. We do it a lot in Canada, don't we? I find i hear more people (men and women) say sorry here in Canada than when i am traveling.

Carol said...

I've been guilty of this all my life. I need to stop saying it. I need to stop apologising for my existence.

LindaC said...

I'm sorry that you felt the need to post about this.

Gail said...

Shannon, you are so right! I've been working on taking back my power, and I would encourage all of us women to do so, starting with eliminating the "I'm sorries."

Gail D.

Jane said...

Clearly you live in Canada. If you'd had to endure entire generations where people are unable to apologize even for knocking you down, you might feel differently about the social lube that a little politeness can provide.

I don't think at all that women should feel apologetic about their very existence. However I do feel that the custom of both parties exclaiming they're sorry when collision happens is fine. Don't worry too much about me, if it's clear it's not my fault and the jerk doesn't apologize right back, I chase them down screaming 'no, no, excuse ME, really' till they do :-).

kathysews said...

A younger RN colleague once counseled me to say "That's unfortunate" when a patient complained. I didn't cause it,and I shouldn't apologize.. I agree. My mother apologized all the time, it was really a way to manipulate me, how can you be mad at someone who is sorry all the time....

Catherine Goetz said...

I read your post and all the comments with interest. I believe manners are important and agree that apologising isn't necessarily the right way to go about it. I like kathysews approach that would work in many situations where we want to show that we have listened but are not going to "take the blame" because it is not our fault or our responsibility. I'm going to try to think twice before I utter those two overused words.

Gorgeous Things said...

There was an article in the Wall St. Journal last week about this. I never paid attention to how much I say "Sorry" until I read that.

Trudy Callan said...

I did that just this week, and then thought to myself, Why am I sorry? I didn't do anything wrong. Why do I have to feel that I did?

Trisha said...

Great post, and great reminder. Makes you wonder-- How/Why/Where did we all learn to do this?

Rose said...

I'm sorry that I am a day late responding to your post. Opps...That is another example of the kind of "I'm sorry" use that I hear all the time. That's not saying what I mean --- just another use of those over used words. A more accurate and powerful statement, "I was busy yesterday and enjoyed reading your post today". I just destroyed my Sorry Gang membership card.

Beth said...

I agree, thanks for posting this.

Beth

Bunny said...

Amen! However, because so many woman belong to the I'm Sorry gang, there is a general acceptance among most women that and I'm sorry is expected. I have worked in mostly male environments and guys don't do this to each other or women. We know that! But most woment expect the other woman to say I'm sorry whether it is warranted or not. There is a lot of changing that has to happen here and it starts with number one.

Carolyn said...

Well, "sorry" is a very politically loaded word in Australia... but I see it as an expression of sympathy or sorrow about a sad or regrettable situation, and not necessarily an admission of guilt. I believe it makes people feel better if "I'm sorry" is used in this way. It's often just a question of politeness, empathy, and normal etiquette in a civilised society, imo

Anonymous said...

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Deez Nailz ~ where the CANADIAN Bloggers at ? said...

This is so important!

"These days, I don't diffuse situations or placate others with those two little words, unless it's actually warranted"

I am glad you wrote this post, and hope alot of people stop by to read it.

It *is* ingrained in women to be the 'fixers' or the resolvers.... Why? Where did that begin?

Earin Marybird said...

Goodness, it was only last Friday I was ranting in an email to my BF about an on-line sewing class I'm taking where pretty much every question to the instructor was prefaced with things like, "Gosh, I must be thick headed to ask this; Sorry I have to ask you something that obviously everyone else knows the anwer to...".

Um, it's a class, we're paying good devalued American dollars to have someone more experienced explain things to us.

I like polite, polite is good but think about it. Why do you need to say you're sorry when you haven't done anything wrong?