Stop Apologising…

Why you must stop over-apologising, and how you can change the habit (with practice scenarios included).

Stop apologising unless you mean it. 

How many times have you said “I’m sorry” this week? In your efforts to be polite and amiable, do you find yourself apologising for all sorts of trivial matters, such as not responding to a text message, not accepting a suggested appointment time, having to rush someone, raising a question at a meeting, or interjecting an opinion in a conversation?

Of course, there are unfortunate moments when saying sorry is the least you can do. But there are also a great number of scenarios, even some admittedly absurd ones, where an apology is not necessary, yet it has become an involuntary reaction for you to apologise. For example, when someone steps on your foot and you feel weirdly guilty for having your limbs in the way of others, or you apologise for sending the food back because the restaurant got your order wrong. That’s when you know you have got a compulsive apologising habit. 

There Is No Need to Apologise If You Have Done Nothing Wrong or Offended Anyone

When it comes to your priorities and feelings, apologies are unwarranted. “Sorry, I cannot make it.” If you cannot attend last-minute plans, do not apologise for having prior engagements. Anyone would understand. “Sorry, I just want some alone time.” Why be sorry for making time for yourself? “Sorry for saying no.” Whether the stance you take or the decision you make is well-received by others or not, there is no need to express guilt or remorse over it. Also, when you say things like “Sorry, that is just my opinion”, you are undermining your authority and discrediting your idea even before the other party can fully process the information.

By making unnecessary apologies, you put yourself in a weak, submissive position. When you saturate your conversations with apologies often enough, people will start believing that you should be apologising. Plus, being around chronic apologisers can be rather exhausting—and sometimes annoying. 

Change The Dynamics with Acknowledgement & Candour

Catch yourself the next time you are about to apologise and think about what you are trying to say. Most of the time, what you want to convey is your acknowledgement of the other party’s input: Their time spent listening to you, waiting for you, or reviewing your work; their contribution of ideas that you may not necessarily agree with; their effort for scheduling an appointment that unfortunately does not align with your plans; their gracious invitation to an event that you may not be interested in, etc. 

Try this instead. Rephrase your sentence by replacing “sorry” with “thank you”. Or find another word or phrase that is closer to your true intent. Express your gratitude and appreciation to the other party, then communicate your idea, decision, or opinion honestly and confidently. Stand your ground, be transparent, and get comfortable with saying “no”. There are no apologies needed. 

Saying “thank you” is gracious without putting yourself down. It also helps to build a connection between you and the other person, nurturing a level of understanding. At the end of it, you can still be perceived as the authentic and kind person you are. 

Let’s Practise 

Instead of: Try:
Sorry, am I bothering you?Is now a good time for a quick question?
Sorry for being late.Thanks for your patience.
Sorry to complain.Thank you for listening.
Sorry, could you repeat?Thank you for clarifying.
Sorry, I cannot make it.I appreciate the invite, but I am going to pass. Have fun! (Or “Next time!”)
Sorry for that. Thanks for your understanding.
Sorry, that is just my opinion.What do you think about this? Let’s look at it from another perspective.
Sorry but I disagree.I see what you are saying, but I believe that… That is a fair point, but I am confident that…
Sorry to break this to you.You are not going to like hearing this.
Sorry to hear that.Thank you for sharing this with me. It must be difficult for you, but I am here to support you.
Sorry for being in your way.After you.
Scholarship Guide Stop Apologising comic

Even When a True Mistake Is Made

There is no need to over-apologise for it. We are all human, and we make mistakes. Know that saying sorry does not amend the situation, and often it does not make the other person happier. Putting into practice the above exercise of showing appreciation to the other party, try: “Thank you for pointing out my mistake.”

Then be practical rather than emotional about it. Let your actions speak for you by jumping into immediate corrective action, or at least commit to an undertaking by saying, “That did not go as well as planned, but I got this.” Asking for constructive feedback also shows that you are sincere in making amends: “Can you advise me on how I can do this differently?”

Change Your Relationship with The Words “I’m Sorry” Today

Introduce positivity in every interaction you have with others, boost your confidence, and change how others view you. Rephrasing takes practice, but it will get easier over time. 

There is even a smart solution if you need help in catching your apology habit on email. The “Just Not Sorry” Gmail plugin is a Google Chrome extension that highlights words and phrases (such as “sorry”, “just”, “think”, “I’m no expert, but…”, etc.) in your emails that may be undermining the real message you want to send.

Save your unnecessary apologies for the true ones to be meaningful. Thank you for reading!