Are you an over-apologizer, someone who chronically says "I'm sorry" or expresses regret for things you can't control? Many people share this trait, and often they have no idea how habitual apologizing has become.
It's important to differentiate between unnecessary over-apologizing and offering appropriate expressions of regret when you've hurt someone or made a mistake. Having enough humility and compassion to apologize when warranted is an invaluable character trait that strengthens all your relationships. It's also a way to demonstrate your faith-based values.
Empathy and kindness are foundational to maintaining the close-knit, homelike environment seniors enjoy at Park Regency assisted living community in Thornton, Colorado. Someone who knows when and how to apologize appropriately demonstrates trustworthiness and genuine concern for others. But someone who mindlessly peppers their speech with "sorry" is often conveying the opposite message to listeners, usually unintentionally.
If the people you're closest to are accustomed to frequently hearing you say "I'm sorry" for things like the weather or traffic on the interstate, they become desensitized to the word. All of that superfluous over-apologizing dilutes the power of your message when you need to extend a sincere and appropriate apology.
While over-apologizing is typically an annoying, unconscious habit, it can send unwanted, unintended messages to your listeners, such as:
- I am not a sincere or trustworthy person
- I don't believe you'll give me what I want unless I'm very nice to you
- I don't think I deserve to ask for anything
- It's OK if my needs aren't met
- I'm afraid of you
Other ways an unwarranted apology can affect you personally include:
- Undermining your self-confidence
- Eroding your self-esteem
- Making you feel guilty for speaking your mind
- Portraying you as weak and indecisive
Serial apologists act mostly out of habit. Often this behavior is deeply ingrained due to decades of reinforcing practice. Sometimes people use an apology as a preemtive deflecting strategy to prevent a negative reaction to what they're saying. (Smoothing ruffled feathers before the ruffling begins.)
Frequent apologizers may be:
- Introverted, insecure or overly self-conscious
- Reacting to anxiety or stress
- The product of a strict upbringing
- Fearful of punishment or abandonment
- Afraid of confrontation and other people's anger
- Accustomed to a family dynamic that puts a high value on "being nice" and getting along with everyone
The goal is not to eliminate the phrase, "I'm sorry," from your vocabulary, but to only use it when it's warranted. For those times when an apology is not truly appropriate, try to find some creative, empowering alternatives similar to the six examples below.
You may discover that the more you practice, the easier it becomes to replace the word "sorry" with a less apologetic alternative that expresses appreciation. This leaves your listener feeling acknowledged and uplifted.
1. Instead of: "I'm sorry I took so long to get ready for our outing."
Say: "Thank you for waiting for me. I appreciate your patience."
2. Instead of: "I'm sorry, but I disagree."
Say: "Thank you for sharing your position on this matter with me. I see it a different way."
3. Instead of: "Sorry I'm crying."
Say: "Your generosity has touched me deeply and moved me to tears."
Or: "This has really affected me emotionally. Thank you for giving me some time to center myself."
4. Instead of: "I can't join you for lunch tomorrow. Sorry about that."
Say: "It's very kind of you to invite me, but unfortunately tomorrow doesn't work for me. Can we reschedule for Wednesday?"
5. Instead of: "I'm so sorry to complain, but the TV in your assisted living apartment is disturbing my sleep."
Say: "I'd really appreciate it if you could lower the volume on your TV after 9:00 p.m. Would that be possible?"
6. Instead of: "Sorry, can you repeat that?"
Say: "Excuse me, can you please repeat that?"
Curbing the tendency to apologize constantly requires the same mindfulness and commitment as breaking any other habit. Overcoming it takes practice, and you're bound to slip up once in a while. Consider asking for God's help during your daily prayer time.
You've already taken the first step by becoming aware of the habit. See if any of the following ideas help you stay on track.
- Start an apology journal. Notice how many times in a day you use the word "sorry" when speaking, and record it in writing.
- Include your emails and texts in this log too. Track how many times you use the word "sorry" in your written communications.
- Try to identify your most common apology triggers. Are there certain people or situations that typically cause you to over-apologize?
- Check out the helpful Gmail plug-in for Chrome, Just Not Sorry. It warns you when you write emails using words that undermine your message. (While you're kicking "sorry" to the curb, consider limiting your use of "just" — a word that often demeans the message you're communicating. As in, "I just want to say I'm sorry," or "I just thought I'd write you a letter.")
- Take a friend at Park Regency Thornton into your confidence. Explain what you're trying to accomplish, and come up with a silent sign they can give you if they observe you apologizing unnecessarily.
Posted on Thu, May 21, 2020
by Shawn Deane