Sorry, Not Sorry: Stop Apologizing, Ladies

The other night I was walking into the dining hall, and I noticed a student holding the door open for me. I began to walk faster towards him and the door, and once I reached the top of the steps, I instinctively said “sorry.” Why had I done this? I knew I had done nothing wrong. Sure, I made him wait a couple seconds before I reached the door, but there was no reason for me to apologize. Yet, “sorry” was the first word that had popped into my mind.

As women, we often find ourselves apologizing for anything and everything. We apologize for the smallest of things, even if there’s no reason to. According to a study in the journal of Psychological Science, “women have a lower threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior.” Therefore, we tend to feel the need to apologize for simple, everyday situations. According to Kathryn D. Cramer, author of Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do, “women are socialized from an early age to focus on relationships and nurturing.” This habit may also also stem from one’s childhood. We are raised to uphold the value of politeness. Constantly apologizing can stem from the desire to show respect and be well-liked by others.

This seemingly harmless habit can actually be damaging to one’s career. Over-apologizing can hurt one’s career because you can potentially portray yourself as insecure, which can conveys a lack of confidence. If you’re the only one apologizing, you may begin to feel a power imbalance between you and your colleagues. This can ultimately deteriorate the relationship between yourself and them, and it may be detrimental to your  own self-esteem. Saying “sorry” too much can also cause you to seem insincere. Using the word excessively can weaken the power of it, causing it to lose meaning.

Now, there’s nothing to feel sorry for. There are many ways to break this habit!

  • Raise awareness to when you use the word. Ask your friends to call you out when saying sorry. It will help raise awareness to your own speech patterns and habits, as well as the context of situations in which you apologize the most.  

  • Find another phrase. Try to replace the word “sorry” with something else. Try nodding or smiling. In my case, I could have easily just said “thank you”, instead of apologizing. Silence is sometimes the answer. There shouldn’t always be a need for us to justify our actions of behavior.

Ladies, there’s no need to apologize if you haven’t done anything wrong. You are not only polite, but unapologetically strong.