I have this awful habit of apologizing for absolutely everything. Often, I find myself apologizing for things that are completely out of my control, or aren’t even my fault. I even find myself inserting the phrase, “I’m sorry”, into the gaps of a conversation because I would rather fill the air with words than face an awkward silence.
Sometimes in the midst of a conversation I will begin apologizing without even realizing it. My boyfriend will notice I’m biting my nails and subtly move my hand away from my mouth so I acknowledge him with a shabby, “I’m sorry.” My roommate will oversleep and doesn’t have time to eat breakfast before work so I scream, “I’m sorry” as she hurries out the door. My neighbor will ask me for the millionth time if I want to join her outside for a cigarette and I will respond with, “Sorry, I’m busy.” My personal favorite is when someone calls me out for apologizing too often and I respond with, “Well…I’m sorry…”
I am not the only one that does this. I often find myself getting extremely annoyed with people who apologize for everything. For example, while checking out at Target last week I encountered a cashier that apologized during the majority of the checkout process. The customer in front of me was slow to move away from the register so she greeted me with, “I’m sorry about that. How are you?” When she asked me if I had a Target Redcard she began with, “I’m sorry to bother you, but are you aware of our discount card?” She even apologized when I dropped the change that she handed me, insisting that it was her fault.
Why do we constantly feel the need to apologize?
I know that for me I use it as a way to fill in the gaps of awkward social situations. I would rather apologize than face the consequences of being called “rude” or “abrasive” for my potentially outspoken behavior, or simply just being alive. For others it may be a people-pleasing tendency or way to temper their communication so it is less off-putting.
Regardless of why we apologize, noticing how often the words “I’m sorry” leave our mouths is something that we should all be aware of. Try to notice the situations that trigger you to apologize. When you catch yourself apologizing for something that doesn’t require a concession, make a mental note and next you find yourself in a similar situation try to address it differently. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you”, when you can’t understand what someone is saying, simply ask them to speak up. Additionally, stop using apologies as conversation-fillers. Learn how to embrace silence as it can add weight to a statement. Finally, only say sorry when you actually mean it.
“We must remember that an apology isn’t an apology unless it’s meaningful.” – Unknown
Featured Image via Vincent Brod.