I don’t know about you, but I apologize for everything. I apologize when people run into me. I apologize to other people when I’m asking them a question. I apologize for all sorts of things I have no control over. And the other day I even caught myself apologizing to a mannequin that I had run into. Imagine that! A mannequin.
I’ve even had a close friend comment on my propensity to apologize. Once, while studying together for a law school exam, I wanted to ask her a question about something our professor had said. Instead of simply asking the question, I started off with an apology. She looked at me and asked, why I was apologizing. When I couldn’t come up with an answer—because I had no clue why I was apologizing—she smiled and told me that I apologize way too much. Know what my response was? To say “Sorry” for saying sorry.
Apparently, I’m not alone. There have been plenty of articles documenting the fact that women tend to apologize more than men. Live Science, Cosmopolitan, the Guardian, and even the New York Times have all told us that we apologize a lot. In a 2010 article, Live Science referred to a study conducted by Karina Schumann at the University of Waterloo in Ontario that stated that women are more likely to apologize due to the fact that we have a lower threshold for what we find offensive. Women apologize more, the article states, because we are more likely to find things that warrant an apology. In a 2015 New York Times piece, Sloane Crosley refers to this study when she mentions the fact that women will push apologies into situations that may not warrant one, such as when asking for a raise.
I found this study very interesting because I often find myself feeling as though I have offended someone, even when they tell me that there is no issue. I have apologized for the most minute things, like not holding the door open for someone who was still 20+ feet away or for eating the leftovers when the other person wasn’t even hungry. When I’m working at my part-time job and it’s time for me to leave, I never inform the manager that I’m leaving without apologizing first.
I have also found myself sabotaging my personal relationships with my habit of apologizing for everything. When in situations where I have been the person who’s been done wrong, I am still the one to apologize. During arguments when I have known that I was right, I’ve apologized. I’ve been on a dates with people who I wasn’t very interested in, and apologized for not being interested, as if I’m wrong for not wanting them. I’ve even been on dates with people who have gotten angry with me for not wanting sex. Instead of telling these people where to go and how to get there, I apologize.
Crosley states that it’s possible that many women may be apologizing for things, not because they are actually sorry, but because there is something else they want to say, but don’t. In her 2015 article, Crosley states:
“I think it’s because we haven’t addressed the deeper meaning of these “sorrys.” To me, they sound like tiny acts of revolt, expressions of frustration or anger at having to ask for what should be automatic. They are employed when a situation is so clearly not our fault that we think the apology will serve as a prompt for the person who should be apologizing. It’s a Trojan horse for genuine annoyance, a tactic left over from centuries of having to couch basic demands in palatable packages in order to get what we want. All that exhausting maneuvering is the etiquette equivalent of a vestigial tail.”
According to Crosley’s article, many women use apologies as a means of coaxing an apology out of the other person who is at fault. But she goes on to say that “assertive apologies” end up keeping us from saying things that need to be said and come off as passive aggressive. She suggests that instead of apologizing, we should focus on saying the things that actually need to be said.
As someone who, admittedly, says sorry way too much, it would do me some good to avoid superfluous apologies and focus on actually speaking my mind. This is why I’ve decided to start a “no apologies” challenge. For the next 30 days, I’m not going to say sorry for anything that doesn’t warrant an apology. This means that if someone interrupts me, I’m not apologizing. If I need to ask a question, I’m not apologizing. If I’m on a date with a weirdo and it’s not going to work out, I’m not apologizing. If I hit you with my car, I will apologize, because I would be a horrible person if I didn’t. Basically, unless I’m in a situation where an apology is absolutely necessary, I am not apologizing.
The point of my challenge is not to punish myself for all of my “sorrys,” but to find ways to express myself more clearly. If I’m always apologizing to someone for something, then I’m not being fully honest about what I’m thinking. Also, not only will avoiding unnecessary apologies save a lot of awkwardness and embarrassment, but it will also keep apologies from losing their importance. Think about it, if you say sorry all the time for every little thing, then when something happens that does warrant an apology, it will seem kind of insincere.
If you have a problem with too many apologies, then consider embarking on your own challenge. You may find yourself in a better place by the end of your challenge.