I have a confession to make:
I’m not sorry.
Not for when we almost bumped into each other while entering the yoga studio, or later when we wanted to place our mats in the same spot. I’m also not sorry for waiting a few days before I replied to your email (I was busy, sue me). And when I didn’t pick up your call while I was having dinner with George? Definitely not sorry for that.
I am not sorry. And I’m not even sorry about that.
How often do you say “I’m sorry” for things you’re not sorry for? Apparently I do it a lot.
According to a few Americans I met at a conference last week, apologizing is “just what Canadians do” — as if there’s an “I’m sorry” quota we’re required to meet just to hold onto our citizenship. We apologize for situations we have no control over or that are no fault of our own. We apologize for simply being ourselves in our everyday life; it’s an automatic response.
Since my new American friends blatantly pointed out how silly it was to be apologizing for every-little-thing-that-happened, I’ve started paying more attention to how many times I apologize on a daily basis. Turns out, I say sorry far too much for too many things that I don’t give a flying f*ck about! (I would apologize for that word, except it’s how I feel and I’m not sorry about it!)
In every situation where I said I was sorry, I wasn’t.
But, if we’re not sorry, what are we?
One word to describe a Canadian? Polite.
Ever since we were little, we’ve been taught the importance of good manners. When our parents caught us up past our bedtime reading our famous storybook — We said I’m sorry. For every time we used the living room wall as our canvas for crayon doodles — we had to say sorry. We were encouraged to apologize for every little thing we did on purpose or by accident, even though we probably never felt bad about it all! Taking responsibility for the situation was the polite thing to do, even if we didn’t actually feel any remorse. And eventually, we realized that saying “I’m sorry” had the power to get us out of trouble or any situation we didn’t want to stay in.
Apologizing has become our crutch in uncomfortable situations. We say sorry when we’re not confident to stand behind our truth. We use it when we feel guilty, ashamed, or actually… any emotion. We say we’re sorry when other people don’t agree with us to prevent confrontation.
I suppose it’s our Canadian way of keeping the peace. Actually, a recent Harvard Study discovered that our habit of excess apologizing actually encourages others to like and trust us a little bit more.
But I’m not one to sit here and pretend to be sorry just so you’ll like me. You shouldn’t try to win friendship with fake apologies. Seriously.
So how do we fix this?
Replace your Sorries
The more we use the words “I’m sorry” out of habit, without actually feeling sorry for whatever we’re apologizing for, the quicker the words lose their effectiveness and honesty.
And speaking of honesty, if you’re going to apologize to me and not mean it – don’t bother!
Rather than saying “I’m sorry” – say what’s really on your mind. If you’re upset or frustrated, just say so. Own your emotions. Be real about how you feel. You/we/I should never apologize for being honest. Asking for forgiveness just because you’re being true to who you are, or even if you’re taking on a burden that isn’t yours to bear, its meaningless and gives others reason to believe that you’re not capable of managing yourself or the circumstances you’re in.
Practice saving your apologies for when you actually do something you regret – showing up late to your best friend’s birthday party, missing your weekly staff meeting, offending your boss or your partner. There’s no need to say you’re sorry for something if you’re not to blame. It’s not your fault there was only one maple cream glazed donut left at the coffee shop – too bad for the person behind you, it’s yours!
“Sorry” is a verbal tic for many of us, and a common reaction to situations where we feel insecure.
AND… we can teach ourselves to stop using it as something to hide behind, and instead – build our confidence and find better ways to express ourselves.
Try cutting down the amount of times you say “Sorry”, and put a little more authenticity into the apologies that really matter – when you’re actually at fault or feel regret about something.
Be you: do what you want and say how you feel, and let go of your need to apologize for being you.
I’m Janice Otremba, a professional speaker, facilitator and coach who specializes in Beating Burnout, Lowering Stress and Powering Up Your Happy! Let’s kick your butt into gear with simple, sound advice for beating burnout and powering up your happy. Book a free 15-minute consultation call with me to get started!
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net