How I Learned To Stop Over-Apologizing
You’re waiting in line at your local coffee shop for your morning pick me up when the person in front of you turns around and bumps into you. Instantly you apologize because it must have been your fault, right? You were probably standing too close.
You get to work where your boss asks you if you’ve completed the report he requested earlier this week. You’re still working on it so you blurt out that you’re sorry without even thinking.
Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, you’re not alone. I will be the first to admit that over-apologizing is something I’ve always struggled with.
It didn’t dawn on me just how much we do this until a friend challenged me to go an entire day without apologizing. What I thought would be an easy task turned out to be an eye-opener. Not apologizing was much more difficult than I thought and it helped me realize I should make a few changes.
To address how we fix any habit starts with addressing why we do it. It is a fact that most women tend to over-apologize, and most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it. We find ourselves in uncomfortable situations and almost like a reflex we feel the need to automatically take responsibility, even if it isn’t our fault.
But what makes us feel compelled to apologize? Anxiety, self-esteem, the need to feel accepted, conflict avoidance, your upbringing, or habit are just a few of the factors affecting your need to over-apologize. But even if any of these elements are giving you a case of the sorries, here are a few things you can do to change your way of thinking and even give yourself a confidence a boost.
How I Learned To Stop Over-Apologizing
1. Thinking before speaking.
Has anyone ever told you to think before you speak? It’s not always the easiest thing to do. So many times we say the first thing that comes to our mind, even when we probably shouldn’t. But, just taking those few seconds to process my next statement changed how I reacted to things.
If you’re in a situation where you feel that you need to apologize, take a second to think. Ask yourself:
- is this something I need to apologize for?
- Was this an outcome of something I did?
- Did I actually do anything wrong?
Yes, there are times we truly owe an apology. Most of the time, however, if you take a moment to reflect you’ll realize you’re only apologizing because you feel like it’s expected, not because you need to.
2. Express your thoughts in a different way.
There are also times when you can turn an apology into gratitude. An “I’m sorry” can very easily be turned into a “thank you” instead.
A small switch in phrasing can actually have a big change in a situation’s outcome and on your relationships.
Instead of casting negativity on yourself, you’re putting positivity on a situation by showing appreciation for the other person.
Rather than saying “I’m sorry I talked for so long,” you could say “thank you for listening to me.”
Or replace “I’m sorry to bother you with this” with “thank you for your help with this.”
When you take the time to acknowledge the value of the other person, you’ll find there isn’t a need to apologize.
3. Take action.
Ultimately, we are human so at some point we all make mistakes. So what about the times when a situation may actually be something you had a part in, shouldn’t you apologize then? The answer is circumstance dependent.
There are going to be times when you may need to address something major and apologize. But what about the more common small scenarios? This could be a good time to address the situation but also suggest a way to fix or improve it.
If we continue to say we’re sorry, people may not always take us seriously or it can lose its meaning. By suggesting a solution, it shows that you not only understand that a mistake has been made but you care enough to find another way to tackle it.
Doing this can not only provide you with respect from the other person, but it can also provide a sense of accomplishment and confidence in knowing you were able to accept and handle a difficult incident.
These are just a few steps you can take to limit how much you apologize on a daily basis. Over-apologizing may seem like one of the smaller more insignificant habits that many of us have, but in making these changes we can alter the way others perceive us.
More importantly, it can alter the way we see ourselves in a positive way. And I’d say that is the biggest benefit of all.