A friend called a few days ago to ask me thoughts on her overly obsessive need to apologize.
“Court, I say sorry even when I am not sorry. Why is that?”
I calmly reminded her that a lot of women do this. And I believe if we get curious about it, we would find that:
It is hardwired: meaning, this has become a habit that stems from childhood. Usually, it comes from a desire to keep those around you happy and whole. Many apologize because they are accustomed to carrying the burden inside relationships. It helps them feel in control while also diffusing any discomfort.
It is reinforced: inside your relationships, if you are commonly the “apologizer” then this has become your role. It shifts the blame and also removes responsibility or accountability off of others. Most people know that you will take the heat, so they may never take steps towards equally carrying the “work” inside your relationship. You are letting them off the hook, essentially.
It is contagious: women rarely encourage other women to NOT apologize. If anything, this habit is contagious. Whenever one woman apologizes for something, other women take it upon themselves to also, be apologetic. It becomes a rift that we use inside our relationships to avoid the hard work of being honest, vulnerable and real.
Note that if you are the “sorry” one in your relationships… it doesn’t have to stay this way.
What I told that friend, and what I will tell you too, is this:
Replace apologizing with gratitude.
Instead of “I am sorry I am taking up so much of your time…” try “thanks so much for your time.”
Instead of “I am sorry to bother you…” try “thanks for giving me a moment to share my idea.”
Instead of “I am sorry I am in your way…” try “thanks for holding the door for me.”
Reserve apologizing when you actually have remorse for something. Save it for when you truly feel sorry, and watch as your relationships reestablish new roles, honest and authentic roles where everyone can be accountable for their own choices, thoughts and actions.