Why You Should Stop Saying Sorry

A topic that I saw really come to light in 2018 was the awareness of women’s tendency to say “sorry” for just about anything. If we ask someone to move out of our way: sorry. When we tell someone we’re not interested: sorry. When we show emotion or talk about something we’re passionate about: sorry. It was discussed by sources ranging from the New York Times to Amy Schumer to Barbie.

It’s hard to say how or why this became a thing, but, as Barbie would say, it’s become a reflex, and while it’s important to apologize when we do something wrong, it’s unnecessary to apologize to coworkers when asking them a question. Sydney Beveridge addresses this, saying, “Of course, sometimes an apology is completely appropriate – when a wrongdoing, whether intentional or not, should be acknowledged and addressed. I’m focusing on those other moments when a simple ‘excuse me,’ ‘thanks’ or even a nod would suffice.”

Beveridge also discusses how she almost scrapped the article, almost as an “I’m sorry” for writing it, but then decided not to when she found herself apologizing out loud to a co-worker's sandwich when she moved their lunch over in the fridge to make room for her own. “I’m sure it still tasted fine, but my words did not.” She has since embarked on a sort of exploration into women’s apologies in daily life with a twitter account entitled Apologizing Woman.

Starting a sentence with “sorry,” “sorry, but,” or “I may be wrong, but” is harmful! It's done out of politeness but it undermines what's about to be said. According to the Child Mind Institute, this can be caused by girls growing up with conflicting messages such as “be confident but not conceited” or “ambition is good, but trying too hard is bad.”

Girls also experience a strong focus on empathy. While college-aged men and women report that they apologize in equal proportion for what they consider offensive behavior, women reported committing more offenses than men, their threshold for what is considered offensive lower. It’s something that seems so miniscule, but the second you begin to notice it, it’ll drive you crazy. Why should we have to sacrifice confidence, or just being us, for this “politeness”?

There are ways to fix this problem. One suggestion is to try to offer a solution in place of an apology. “Skip the ‘I’m sorry, forgot one thing!’ and move right to the ‘In my last email I did not include X. Below are the additional details,’” Nicole Amarillas, founder of Expansive Voice, suggests. Another suggestion (and a rather popular one I’ve noticed among other sources and women trying to kick this habit) is replacing remorse with gratitude, or rather “I’m sorry” with “thank you.”

Instead of saying, “Sorry I’m late,” say, “Thank you for waiting.” Stop saying, “Sorry, but my food came out cold,” and say, “Could you heat this up? I would really appreciate it.” When you open up to someone about your feelings, don’t follow it up with “sorry!” Stand your ground and say, “Thank you for listening.” And if you do ever need to legitimately apologize for something, make it real and authentic. This will help you stop viewing “sorry” as a casual phrase to throw out in the first place.

The day we can stop apologizing to hairdressers for not coming in for so long will bring women one step closer to feeling comfortable in their own skin and environment. We have the power to change these things and to do so unapologetically.