How to Stop Saying Sorry for Literally Everything
You are likely reading this because you want to stop saying that you are sorry when you’ve done nothing wrong, or for things that are out of your control.
You may find yourself repeating “I’m sorry” reflexively, merely because someone brought a matter to your attention, or you may find yourself being a proactive apologizer saying things such as:
- “I’m sorry, may I use your bathroom?”
- “I’m sorry, I haven’t said ‘good morning’ to you yet.”
- “I’m sorry, can I use my debit card for this purchase?”
- “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand. Can you repeat that?”
- “I’m so sorry to interrupt, but my ride is leaving now.”
Does this sound like you?
In these examples you like to get the apology out of the way–right away–just in case there was any possibility of offense, or others thinking bad things about you.
These are examples of unnecessary apologies.
Consider that nature simply calls when she does; that the urgency of a matter may supersede employing the use of pleasantries, and that it’s completely acceptable to use any payment method a merchant already accepts.
The brightest among us still need to hear things repeated for clarification, and few of us have complete control over our schedules. In other words, there’s nothing to be sorry about in the above situations.
Good News, You Can Totally Stop
There are many theories as to how someone becomes a hyper-apologizer, or why a person may choose the quick ‘I’m sorry’ response as their default setting. Let’s leave that to the psychoanalysts to debate.
From our perspective it doesn’t matter how or why you started saying sorry so much. What’s most important is that you can free yourself from habitual hyper-apologizing by making a Little Change, and this might be easier than you think!
Most of the Time There’s Nothing to be Sorry For
Keep in mind that you are allowed to occupy the space you take up on this planet, and that you have the freedom to make reasonable requests of those around you for the things you need.
This is a completely acceptable attitude for everyone to have at all times, and this includes you. We are people. People need things. And sometimes we need things from each other.
What Doesn’t Work
Avoid using aversion techniques, or ‘self-punishment’ strategies as an attempt to break the habit of saying “I’m sorry.” In other words, don’t do anything to intentionally make yourself feel bad for saying “I’m sorry” as a way to stop saying “I’m sorry.” If you are saying “I’m sorry” a lot, chances are you feel bad enough already.
Although some may get the external results they want by using such a tactic, it may come with other emotional consequences down the road.
You’ve been saying ‘I’m sorry’ for a long time, and it will take some time to get used to not saying it. Be patient with yourself as the ‘sorry’s’ will continue to slip out for a while. We will be taking the path of gentle persistence.
Observe your inner world as you approach the next situation where you feel compelled to apologize. You may notice feelings reminiscent of guilt, or intrusiveness, along with the awareness that a quick ‘I’m sorry’ response will temporarily reduce their intensity.
Now, instead of offering an apology, slightly shift your focus from you as intruder, to the other party as a benevolent recipient of whatever you’re about to say or do. Place your emphasis on the facts of the situation that are likely to produce feelings of gratitude, rather than guilt.
In My Personal Experience
I used to feel the need to apologize when I would use a few dollars worth of coins to make a purchase, rather than dollar bills. If I were about to pay for a $2.80 cup of Starbucks coffee with 10 quarters, 2 dimes and 2 nickels I would say something like, “I’m sorry about all of this change.”
Why did I say this? Because I assumed it was an inconvenience to the barista to receive all that change. Each time I did this at a retail store I felt like an intruder, as if I did something that warranted an apology.
I made the Little Change detailed above and began expressing gratitude toward the cashiers who accepted the coins, instead of focusing on the idea that I was doing something wrong. I began saying, “Thank you for helping me get rid of all this change.”
To this day cashiers will often reply with, “We can really use the change,” or “Trust me. We need the change.”
Even if they had not responded positively, I still realized that thanking them for receiving the change felt much better internally than apologizing for handing it to them.
By shifting my focus from me as intruder, to cashier as benevolent recipient, I no longer feel the need to apologize for buying coffee with coins, or anything else for that matter.
The emotional payoff is that I no longer see myself in these situations as a burdensome creature that ruins people’s lives by piling coins on top of their counters. On the contrary, I feel as if I am helping them refresh their supply of much needed change.
Let’s Circle Back Around
Here are the five examples from the beginning of this article with the focus shifted toward expressing gratitude toward the recipient, rather than guilt on behalf of the requester.
“I’m sorry, may I use your bathroom?”
- “Thank you for inviting me. Before we get started, may I use your bathroom?”
“I’m sorry, I haven’t said ‘good morning’ to you yet.”
- “Good morning, by the way!”
“I’m sorry, can I use my debit card for this purchase?”
- “I’m so glad you guys accept debit cards.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t understand. Can you repeat that?”
- “Will you repeat that one more time so that I fully understand?”
“I’m so sorry to interrupt, but my ride is leaving now.”
- “My ride is leaving now. Let’s get together again soon.”
Can you imagine how much better you will feel as you begin to frame things this way?
Can you imagine how much less you will feel the need to apologize each day?
It’s Okay to Be Sorry Sometimes
To be sure there are times when apologies are completely warranted, as these help to build trust and strengthen relationships. If you inconvenienced a friend by arriving two hours later than agreed or missed an important deadline at work, it’s in your best interest to offer a sincere apology.
Use an apology only on the specific occasions when your actions were a true detriment to the other party.
The Path of Gentle Persistence
Expressing gratitude rather than apologizing is a Little Change you can make today, and it may take a little while before it becomes your new mode of being. Non-essential sorries will still slip out, especially during the first several days of attempting this change.
When you accidentally apologize for something, still follow through with the Little Change. Be patient with yourself, and allow yourself to feel good about even the smallest signs of progress.