Throughout my career, I have taken many leadership and brand development courses. Upon further observation, I have noticed that all these seminars have one thing in common: They ask people to stop apologizing! Saying sorry for the sake of being polite is not only wasteful but unnecessary. Why? It can work against you by making you appear weak, complacent and most importantly inept. Apologies are a tool for socialization but they are also a promise to make amends. If you constantly apologize for the same mistakes over and over again, you will lose credibility in front of those you continue to wrong.
After Canadians and the British, women are the worst offenders when it comes to the misuse of the word sorry. (But other studies counter men overdo it just as much.) This is so widely known that SNL felt compelled to air a sketch in which women apologized to each other constantly so much so that the conversation devolved into an exchange of sorrys. Every word was sorry! If you don’t believe me Google “words women need to stop using at the office”. Sorry makes the top ten right next to just and yes. Who knew being nice could be counterproductive! Apologizing profusely only serves to discredit the intentions of the user. Again, don’t apologize unless you mean it.
Because the word is so commonly thrown around it has lost meaning. A hashtag was made to enhance the point as many of us are really #sorrynotsorry. The phrase now serves as a way to ask people to repeat themselves (“I’m sorry, what?), and as a way to ask for things nicely (“Sorry but can you x?”). People even use it to offer support! (“I’m sorry to hear that”.) It has gotten so out of hand that I have started to chastise myself if I utter it instead of employing pardon or excuse me when asking for permission and/or when I didn’t understand a request or statement. I am not truly sorry for that conduct, I’m simply stating that I need further clarification or assistance. There are better words to convey that message.
Words have meaning and misusing them not only erodes communication but also diminishes our capacity to clearly state our thoughts and objectives. Sorry has served as a dumbing down of manners and common courtesy and it is not the correct response when we are uncertain or need to apologize. If you need to excuse yourself for bumping into someone on a busy street, “Pardon me” or “Are you okay?” are better options. It’s not hard to deduce that you are not truly sorry for the contact, but rather you might be concerned that you may have injured or inconvenienced someone. In this case a full “please forgive me” may be a better option. Still, why waste time apologizing for things other cultures have already understood are inevitable when stuck in closed quarters or in busy locations? Courtesy can become meaningless when overused too.
So friends, the worst offenders overall are the people you love. You do not have to continue to beg for forgiveness whenever they you away on the IM for too long or took your time returning a phone call. As someone who loves you, I can tell you that you are absolved from constantly need to apologize for making me wait. I know you won’t make it in time and have planned accordingly. I’m on the other side of the communications device or situation doing my own thing and cannot expect, under any circumstances, that you owe me your undivided attention instantly. Friends are there for each other in good times and in bad moments and if you believe you have to apologize to your friends or family for how you feel or how you communicate, you need better or different peeps in your life. Judging is not caring. Those who really care will do the best to understand your intentions and attitude.
And in case you are still not convinced, there’s no need to apologize, friend. 😎