An apology is an expression of remorse or regret for hurting someone or doing something wrong; however, as important as it is to apologize when you are in the wrong, there are several good reasons to stop apologizing all the time. Believe it or not, you can apologize too much. I should know because I apologize all the time, even when I don’t necessarily need to. I have slowly begun to learn that my constant need to apologize isn’t helping me or those around me. Many people, especially women have a tendency to apologize too much. According to Beverly Engel, author of The Power of Apology, this can come from several factors including being taught to take responsibility for issues or problems, being taught that an apology is a form of politeness, having a fear of conflict, or being a victim of abuse. Personally, I have a fear of conflict and was taught to take responsibility for issues and problems. Now that you know you can apologize too much, you should also be aware of the specific reasons to stop apologizing all the time.
1. It’s Not Always Your Fault
Have you ever found yourself apologizing for the fact that it is snowing or for the fact that your best friend showed up late to dinner? Neither one of these things would have been your fault. Yet, if you say you're sorry frequently like I do, you might catch yourself apologizing for something you had no control over. In an effort to put an end to my apology compulsion, I am going to stop apologizing for things that aren’t my fault. For example, instead of telling someone I am sorry they had a bad day, I am going to tell them I wish their day had been better. In addition to the fact that you shouldn’t apologize for things that are outside of your control, there are some other very good reasons to stop apologizing all the time.
2. Perpetuates Low Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is an emotional evaluation of self-worth that encompasses beliefs in your abilities and competency. One of the classic signs of low self-esteem is saying I am sorry frequently. Constantly apologizing can subconsciously reinforce negative feelings about yourself, especially since apologizing can make you feel defeated. Interestingly, simply reducing the amount of things you apologize for can have a positive impact on your self-esteem. Certainly, it can’t solve all the problems that can stem from low self-esteem, however, when I apologize less, I tend to find myself feeling more confident in myself. Perhaps it is because I am no longer apologizing for things like being in someone’s way. If you have low self-esteem it is worth trying limiting your apologies to only those instances that it is really appropriate, such as accidentally stepping on someone’s foot or forgetting to turn in an important group project.
3. Loss of Respect from Peers
If you apologize all the time at work, your co-workers may lose respect for you and start taking advantage of you. At first this may seem counterintuitive because of the many associations between apologizing and politeness. However, many business publications recommend that people stop apologizing frequently at work because it can make a person seem weak. If you have ever watched NCIS, you know that one of the boss’s infamous rules is “Never apologize, it is a sign of weakness.” I never really believed this until I discovered that many businessmen and women feel apologizing makes a person look weak. The lesson I took away from this is that it is important to own your decisions in the workplace and only apologize when it is absolutely necessary. It will make people respect you more.
4. Puts You in a Subordinate Position
By its nature, an apology puts you in a subordinate position. If you find yourself apologizing frequently, especially to your peers, this can be a problem for your confidence. No one likes feeling subordinate to someone else, but apologizing can have that effect. Certainly, in work and in life, there will always be people who are above you, but making yourself feel subordinate by frequently apologizing is another thing. When you are apologizing, consider if it is something you truly need to apologize for. If you are like me, you may find that most of the time you say you’re sorry you don’t really need. Cutting out these superfluous apologies can go a long way toward boosting your confidence and making you not feel subordinate.
5. Puts off Conflict
I mentioned earlier that I greatly dislike conflict. In fact, I dislike conflict so much that I have gone to great efforts simply to avoid it, including apologizing. It is not uncommon to apologize to avoid conflict. However, avoiding or putting off all conflict is not a good thing. A conflict is really just a disagreement between ideas, and working through these disagreements often results in growth in relationships or finding a new and even better idea. I believe growth is always a positive thing, and I have had to teach myself that conflict can result in something positive in the end. As a result, I try to avoid apologizing in an effort to put off conflict, even though I still dislike conflict.
6. Loses Its Meaning
Do you know the story of the little boy who cried wolf? Although not exactly the same, the lesson of the story applies to apologizing too much. When you apologize all the time it starts to lose meaning to other people. I know I want my apologies to be received as sincere, because I always give them with sincerity. However, I recently realized that if I apologize for every little thing, "I’m sorry" loses much of its meaning. Knowing that, I am now going to save my apologies for when it really matters.
7. It’s Ok to Be You
Have you ever found yourself apologizing for being underdressed or for not being able to make up your mind? I know I have said I am sorry for not being able to make a decision. Yet, I shouldn’t apologize for something like that. It is perfectly fine for me to take a little longer deciding something, and it is absolutely fine if I want to wear the more casual flat shoes instead of the heels. There is no need to apologize for being yourself. I certainly am going to stop saying I’m sorry about the things that make me who I am, and you should as well.
Saying I’m sorry can become a habit, but it is an unhealthy habit. Apologizing too much can make you lose confidence in yourself, and it can make other people lose respect for you. Save your apologies for the times when they are really needed. It will give you a confidence boost! Do you have a habit of apologizing all the time?