Stop Over-Apologizing: Why Saying Sorry Less Can Make You Feel More Powerful

By Reniel

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Last Updated: August 12, 2021

I’m sorry but I have to say this; but starting your sentences with “I’m sorry,” when you aren’t really sorry, does a lot more harm than you think.

Being sorry is simply defined: 

Sorry - feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc. - Dictionary.com

Except that, so many of us say, "I'm sorry," in situations that don't call for an apology. 

Over-apologizing is a real thing - for some of us, we're being too hard on ourselves, anticipating that something we said will offend someone, or provoke them. For some of us, it stems from something in our past - that may have been some kind of unhealthy relationship.

Still more of us don't feel like we can just say what we need in terms of boundaries - so instead of saying, "I need you to give me some space," you say, "I'm sorry, can you move please?" You don't need to be sorry, but it's like a reflex. Why? Let's talk about it. 

Read this next: Why Saying No is Good For You

 

Why You Should Stop Saying Sorry

Don’t believe me? Then consider that saying sorry when you don’t really need to can have some unintended effects on those around you. 

You can come across as insincere.

Overly using the phrase “I’m sorry,” can make listeners start suspecting that it is just something you say to get off the hot seat. They begin to doubt the authenticity of the words you utter altogether.

You seem like you're unsure of yourself.

Sometimes it makes them wonder if you have any sense of self-worth. Why would he/she be apologizing for something that was obviously the fault of the other person? Observers would wonder to themselves, and the person being apologized to may even wonder the same thing.

People might think you're incompetent.

In a professional setting, using the word too much may communicate a sense of incompetence – lack of confidence, and uncertainty.

You feel powerless.

Other times, it can be a strong indicator of power imbalances in a relationship. Over-apologizing in a relationship can lead to you being taken advantage of. Always assuming you are responsible when conflict or disagreement comes up may give an unrealistic sense of reality - and you can become a punching bag for someone else. 

It seems like you have a weakness.

If you always feel you have to apologize so other people feel good, are you really thinking about your own needs? Saying sorry too much also communicates that you are overly dependent on external approval.

Sound familiar? Take comfort, because it may not be entirely your fault.

 

Why Do We Apologize So Much? 

If the conversation around saying sorry too much resonates with you, take some time to think about why you feel you need to apologize all the time.

Some of us may feel like we are burdens, or that we're not important. There can be some deep-seated reasons for why we feel this way. 

  • You have a deep sense of compassion for others
  • You once got into an abusive relationship, where you had to apologize a lot to avoid confrontation
  • You had a strict upbringing – your parents made you say “I’m sorry,” one too many times
  • Maybe you just don’t like conflict. You always want to resolve any air of tension even before it starts sprouting
  • Maybe you’re just so agreeable or you are unsure who is wrong
  • Or maybe you are just very high on the anxiety spectrum…making you keep your foot on the “I’m sorry,” pedal to avoid incident

The problem, however, is that sprinkling, “I’m sorry,” over every conversation like a chef sprinkles salt on dishes not only invalidates you, it destroys the worth of your apologies too.

It is a common response for people these days, but it's really important for all of us to recognize there are some things we absolutely do not need to apologize for. 

Needless to say, you shouldn’t apologize for:

  • Your feelings
  • Your opinions
  • Your looks
  • Your achievements
  • Your natural quirks
  • Your questions (as long as you don’t sound rude)
  • The actions of others
  • How you decide to allocate your attention
  • Circumstances that are beyond your control

That being said, below are some basic steps you can practice over time to aid you to stop saying sorry when you don’t really need to.

 

 5 Ways To Stop Saying Sorry Too Much

1. Be Mindful.

Pause, and recognize when you are not to be sorry. This might sound easy, but it is perhaps the most difficult phase.

You need to remind yourself that you don’t have to apologize for existing and living. Sometimes you would only realize after the words have been spilled, but don’t give up. This would also require you to study what triggers your knee-jerk responses, so you can watch out for them.

With time and increased self-awareness, you will be able to stop yourself midway and even catch yourself before muttering the words.

 2. Refine How You Express Your Emotions.

You feel different emotions in different circumstances, but you need not fall back to the “I’m sorry” cushion. 

 3. Show Compassion.

Rather than apologizing when you see someone hurting, you can be more direct, and tell them what you really feel.

That is, swap, “I’m sorry”, with “I can imagine how you feel”, “It’s a pity”, “I know it’s difficult, please take heart”, or some other variation of that. Remember it is not your fault, you are only empathizing, not taking the blame.

4. Show Gratitude.

When someone does something nice for you, you don’t have to apologize for being in a position where they volunteered to help, rather appreciate them for being such nice people. Swap, “I’m sorry for being such a burden” with, “Thank you so much for being there”, “I appreciate your effort”, “you are a darling”, or some other nice words…

5. Pose Your Questions Confidently.

Don’t start with an apology as though you are not worthy of speaking. Don’t say “I’m sorry, can you explain X, Y, Z”, instead, go on and say “I do not understand what you mean by X, can you please clarify”, “Can you please explain Y?”, “what does Z mean?."

 

Set Your Boundaries Clearly - You Don't Need to Apologize

You don’t have to apologize when telling people what you need.

You don’t have to say, “I’m sorry, can you go outside”, instead say, “Please go outside”, “you shouldn’t be here”, or maybe you can explain why, for example, “you can’t be here because of X reason."

In summary, be your authentic self. Don’t try to look good in the eyes of people. Do what is right, when it is right, and let that be enough for you.

When it is necessary, apologize from the bottom of your heart, but when you have no reason to, do not say that you are sorry – because you really don't need to be sorry.

Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

 

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6 comments on “Stop Over-Apologizing: Why Saying Sorry Less Can Make You Feel More Powerful”

  1. First if all good morning 🌄!!!
    I would like to say thank you for your daily emails!! I look forward to reading them every morning and it's part of my morning routine to read before i start my day along with my prayers.
    Many blessings to everyone.

    Much success. Always

    Sincerely,
    Ms Rosie Ramirez

  2. How US American that title is and also anti-Canadian American!
    The message is good but the title stinks.
    There is a huge difference between and inflated ego and courage'; but also between the self-0confidence that marks one who has learned to accept themselves as BOTH humanly error-prone and yet lovable just as we are - human as so designed and evolved!

  3. My friends have complained because I over-apologize. Thank you very much for giving me another way to approach overcoming that habit. I really like these emails, especially the affirmations. Thanks again.

    1. We're so happy you're enjoying it, Sandy! We should apologize when we're in the wrong, but we shouldn't feel the need to say sorry for every little thing. Your decisions and feelings are important too.

  4. A very insightful post!!

    I live in Canada, and here people say sorry for anything and everything, it's more like a cultural habits.

    1. Thanks Adriana! Exactly! Apologizing when you do something wrong or hurt someone is one thing, but we don't need to say sorry for everything.

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