At this point, saying “I’m sorry” is probably a knee-jerk reaction for you. Whether you’re late to a meeting or accidentally bump into someone in a crowded room, apologizing is commonplace. But have you ever considered that you’re apologizing too much? Studies show that repeatedly saying “I’m sorry” can actually do more harm than good. “Sorry” can cause issues with self-esteem and impact how your peers view you. People who over-apologize often appear insincere, not confident or annoying. Even in situations where an apology is warranted, saying “I’m sorry” can leave the other person feeling like they need to comfort you. To avoid the negative impact “I’m sorry” can have, let’s discuss what you can say instead.
Before you can change your apology habits, it’s important to first understand why people over-apologize. Some of the most common reasons for overusing “I’m sorry” include:
True, heartfelt apologies are important when you’ve done something wrong to someone. However, apologizing for things you can’t even control doesn’t bode well for your reputation. Serial apologies can leave your peers questioning how sincere you are. Additionally, people around you may feel obligated to say, “It’s okay,” which can get annoying over time. Not to mention, frequently apologizing will make you feel there’s something wrong with you. Here are a few ways obsessive apologizing can impact your life.
Whether you’re with coworkers, family members or friends, over-apologizing signals to those around you that you lack confidence. Apologizing for things like speaking up in a group or talking about yourself isn't necessary — it comes off as downplaying your accomplishments and thus changing how people view you.
In some cases, an apology will actually make the person you’re apologizing to feel worse. When someone is already feeling down, they don’t need to take time to comfort you and downplay their own feelings.
When you apologize repeatedly, your “sorry” begins to lose meaning. When the time comes for a real, warranted apology, people may not take you seriously.
Knowing the right time to apologize can be tricky and varies from situation to situation. Generally speaking, you should apologize when your actions or words have hurt someone else, regardless of your intentions. You should only apologize when you truly mean it and it will benefit the hurt party.
So if saying “I’m sorry” has such negative impacts in certain situations, what can you do instead? Well, there are several alternatives that will make you and those around you feel better.
Imagine this. You’re meeting a new friend and you call them by the wrong name. They correct you, and “I’m sorry” are the first words out of your mouth. Your friend now feels obligated to comfort you and let you know that it’s okay, even if it’s not okay. Instead, try saying, “Thank you for correcting me,” and move on with the conversation. This will leave both parties feeling better.
Sometimes people are simply not ready to hear an apology. While it’s natural to want to address a situation immediately, certain scenarios require a cool-down period. It’s also important to ask yourself who the apology is for. If saying sorry will make you feel better but won’t do anything for the other person, it’s probably best to say nothing.
You never need to apologize for a bad hair day. Learning to accept that you’re going to show up with stains on your shirt sometimes will leave you feeling happier and more confident than constantly apologizing for existing ever will.
Instead of wasting energy apologizing for your behavior, work on changing it so you don’t need to apologize in the first place. Always late? Try working on your morning wake-up routine to help get you going on time. Have trouble keeping in touch with friends? Set yourself a reminder each week to send a quick compliment.
At the Viewpoint Assisted Living community, we strive to foster an environment where each resident feels safe and comfortable. So instead of apologizing at every turn, remember to embrace your imperfections, thank people when they correct you and only apologize when it’s really needed.
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