How many times have you said “I’m sorry!” when you haven’t actually offended anyone or made a mistake, such as being a few minutes late to dinner, making a small typo in a work email, or asking for your turn to speak?
If you identify as an empath or a people-pleaser (or both!), you might find that saying “sorry” is second nature, but where does this impulsive reaction come from, and is it actually helpful?
Let’s expand on this 👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻
Why You Might Be Over-Apologising:
A genuine apology in a time of wrong-doing is important, but chronic over-apologising (i.e. saying sorry for a minor inconvenience or apologising repeatedly) is a habit displayed by people who describe themselves as more anxious, self-conscious, and worried about upsetting, offending, or disappointing those around them. Studies have shown that women are more likely to over-apologise than men.
It’s a learned and conditioned behaviour, one that can unintentionally undermine our authority and confidence. Over-apologising implies “I did something wrong, and wish I didn’t”. But in situations where you haven’t actually done anything wrong, saying “sorry” may leave you with a feeling of guilt or disappointment. It might even make you appear less competent to others. It can also make your true apologies seem less genuine or trustworthy.
If this sounds like you, you’re likely to consider yourself a people-pleaser and may struggle with self-esteem or seek external validation through others’ approval.
So, How Do We Find the Confidence to Stop Saying “Sorry” so Much?
With a few simple word-swaps, you can easily display more assertiveness in your everyday conversations. These little script-flips can change your language from being fault-based (yours) into expressing more gratitude and positivity towards others and yourself!Instead of:
- “Sorry I’m late” ⬇️
“Thank you for waiting.”
- “Sorry I’m rambling so much about my problems” ⬇️
“Thanks for helping me brain-dump my thoughts.”
- “Sorry I took so long to reply to your email” ⬇️
“I appreciate your patience while I worked through my inbox.”
- “Sorry I haven’t been in the most talkative mood lately” ⬇️
“I’m so grateful that you’ve stuck by me through this rough patch.”
- “Sorry for taking up so much of your time” ⬇️
“Thanks for sharing your valuable time with me today!”
A study by You, Yang, Wang & Deng in 2019 showed that switching from fault-based apologies (emphasising your perceived “fault”/accountability), to gratitude-based (highlighting the receiver’s merits and showing appreciation) language, impacts your self esteem. You can slowly shift your words and energy to be more assertive and self-confident, instead of shrinking yourself down, feeling like a failure, or a burden (you aren’t!). This has a direct impact on self-satisfaction.
Yes, mistakes do happen, but you don’t have to apologise for every little thing. Instead, save your “sorry’s” for when an apology is genuinely merited!
Let me know how you go with implementing these strategies or if you need help setting boundaries and letting go of people pleasing, book in a counselling session via the button below!