I’m an over-apologizer. I apologize for most everything — often things that don’t require an apology or things that I have no control over. Here is a very small sampling of what I’ve said in the past week:
"I’m sorry that it rained during your visit to San Francisco." (It rains all the time in San Francisco. I can’t control it.)
"I’m sorry that dinner isn’t ready yet." (Why am I apologizing for cooking?)
"I’m sorry that the house is dirty." (I have a new baby.)
"Sorry!" (When someone ran into me on the street.)
"Sorry I’m so slow!" (When tying my shoes. I apologized for tying my shoes.)
I never realized that this was an issue, until people started calling it out: my managers, my family, my friends, and my husband. Over-apologizing may sound friendly, but it has some detrimental consequences. It’s disempowering, mildly annoying, and perhaps worst of all, it often means that I am trying to take responsibility for things over which I have no control. Essentially, I am downplaying my wants, desires and needs for fear of potentially inconveniencing someone else.
And what I’ve often discovered is that the things I’m apologizing for aren’t an inconvenience to the other person at all. When I say, “I’m sorry,” I’m often met with: “Why are you apologizing for that?” Which made me realize: I need to stop.
Say 'Thank You' Instead
Recently, a former manager , and now dear friend , sent me this article. The basic premise was this: Instead of saying “I’m sorry,” say “thank you” instead.
Often, when I say “I’m sorry,” what I am really doing is apologizing for being assertive. I am apologizing for asking for what we really want. I am apologizing because I fear that I might inconvenience someone else. And there’s no need to apologize for these things.
I recently had a new baby — and our pediatrician advised us not to have toddlers in the house while he’s really tiny due to some family health issues. Most of our friends have toddlers. Which made me feel terrible. Instead of apologizing, I decided to take on the challenge of saying thank you.
When people asked to come over to see the new baby, I proposed a walk instead — and explained the situation. And instead of saying “I’m so sorry,” I said “Thank you so much for your flexibility and understanding. I am so grateful to have you in my life.”
I meant it. I am truly grateful to have friends who are understanding enough to love me and honor my request. And, guess that happened?
People understood. I felt more confident in asking for what I want. They joined us on some great walks outside and we were able to bond over some of the joys and challenges of parenthood. And instead of feeling the guilt associated with saying “I’m sorry,” I felt deep gratitude towards those I love.
Gratitude is a powerful thing — something which can only serve to deepen relationships. So, thank you friends. Thank you for your understanding. For your love. For your support.
I’m not sorry.