Before leaving my apartment building I opened the door to the stairwell right when two girls walked by. I instinctively said sorry at the same time that they did. We continued down the stairs in silence.
Later that day, I opened the door to my stairwell again and two boys nearly ran me over as they were passing through. My instinct, once again, was to say “sorry,” but they blew past me so fast that they didn’t get the chance to hear me. They didn’t have an inkling of “sorry” in them.
As I walked down the hallway I thought: “wait, what was I even sorry for? Why did I say it?”
Bottom line: girls say sorry too much. And it’s a problem.
[bf_image id="6sfkhb768jwsnb3ns68b9sx"] When I ran into the girls, I didn’t think about my “sorry” at all, because they had said it in unison with me. But the lack of apology from the boys made me think about why I said sorry at that moment, or when I do anything really.
According to the Child Mind Institute, women, at a young age, are taught what is right and wrong, but these lines get blurred as they age. Girls rarely get praised for exuding confidence in their childhood, unlike boys. Empathy is more encouraged for girls, making them hyper-aware of how they treat others and what the other person is feeling.
Being able to admit to mistakes and say sorry is an important part of life, but overdoing it diminishes the meaning of a real “sorry”. It comes down to not sounding confident in your actions. The word “sorry” is often used as a buffer to diffuse situations before they even start. Saying “sorry to bother you” is a common example. It seems like a way to prevent someone from getting mad at you for disturbing them, but in actuality, you probably weren’t. Apologizing is also used as a way to not seem bossy or rude. It’s a double-edged sword, where if you are too confident, it comes off as being cold, but being too accommodating is seen as weak. It seems like an impossible game, but really, the answer is to just be confident, yet polite. Being self-assured is not a bad thing. The more you stand up for yourself, the easier it gets, and the stronger you feel.
[bf_image id="q55hak-a7ln9k-4fle5m"] A psychological study showed that women do, in fact, apologize more than men, but it’s because they claim to commit more offenses. The catch, though, is that men believe there are fewer things to apologize for. So, the way to start eliminating apologetic language in your speech is to be aware of what you are and aren’t sorry for; what deserves an apology, and what doesn’t. “Excuse me” or “thanks for waiting” works a lot better in most situations.
Saying “sorry” has become so ingrained in my actions that it’s going to take practice to keep myself from automatically blurting it out. But the goal of eliminating excessive apologies is to feel more confident and in control of everyday situations. It’s okay to take up space, ask for what you want, and make mistakes. You don’t have to apologize.