I’m sorry, but actually I’m not sorry. I must admit I’m a recovering people pleaser and prolific apologiser, but not anymore. I’m changing my ways!
I realised that I have been over-apologising for many years, and there are others just like me. And wow, it sure is hard to change these kinds of habits, but certainly not impossible.
Isn’t “I’m sorry” the most unnecessarily overused phrase in society? Now, I know you’re thinking that many people could do with more manners, but I don’t mean those generally rude people. I mean the expression is overused in the sense that we sometimes use “I’m sorry” when it’s really not necessary, or even appropriate.
I remember my Dad once commenting on how strange it is that two people will turn a corner in the supermarket, nearly colliding with their trolleys, and then both say “I’m sorry”. When nothing happened and no one did anything wrong, why are they sorry, he would always ask.
So I set myself a challenge.
Changing behaviour: Challenging myself to be more aware
In my experience, and as many will confirm, the best way to change behaviour is to first become aware of it.
Now, in English, we use “I’m sorry” for a variety of purposes, not just to apologise for something that is our fault. But I wanted to personally analyse when I used it for instances when it wasn’t necessary.
So, for two weeks, I challenged myself to be aware of each time I went to say “I’m sorry” and to mentally note:
- Why I was saying it;
- If I truly was sorry for something; or
- If there was something else I was really trying to say.
What I learned
I learned that I went to say “I’m sorry” on many different occasions, including when:
- there was an uncomfortable situation or I didn’t know what to say.
- Someone felt bad or had something unfortunate happen to them that wasn’t my fault.
- Someone else did something they should apologize for (like bumping into me).
- Someone received bad news or I had to give bad news.
- Something fell short of expectations I imagined others to have.
- To make others feel comfortable in social situations e.g. I’m sorry I didn’t call you (when actually I wasn’t, and I had no intention of calling).
Of course, “I’m sorry” is commonly used when someone receives bad news or is feeling ill, and it’s perfectly acceptable to say it in these contexts. However, I wanted to challenge myself to notice when I went to say “I’m sorry” and to see if I could use other words to express how I felt.
I wasn’t always sorry when I went to say “I’m sorry”. It was a default in many situations and I found that I could replace “I’m sorry” with something more meaningful and true.
In this short challenge not not only did I learn to increase awareness when I was saying “I’m sorry”, but I found I was also more conscious of my conversations, and I was a better listener too.
Stopping the habit: Saving “I’m sorry” for when it really counts
Learning to put your ego aside and saying “I’m sorry” when it’s appropriate and needed is a different challenge that many people face. So, I’m not advocating that we shouldn’t say “I’m sorry”, but I do think we should be more conscious of when we are using it to make sure we really mean it when we do say it.
We should all make sincere apologies, but we should save them for when they’re really required.
> Shout outs
If this post spoke to you in some way, you may also find these posts interesting and/or helpful. If you didn’t like it, that’s ok too, but I’m not sorry.
> Connect with me
Are you an over-apologiser too? Share your experiences about changing your habits by commenting on this blog. Try my same challenge and share what you discover.