A Case for Not Saying Sorry
Apologizing too often eventually erases the sincerity behind it
The other day, I was having a conversation with a new friend that I had just met when we got into chatting about our Myers-Briggs results. Then, the topic of strengths and weaknesses came up. When I started sharing my weaknesses, she noticed the fact that I’m too apologetic. In response, I ironically apologized by saying, “Sorry I say sorry too much!”
I already know that I have a bit of a bad habit with saying sorry too often because, well, I hear myself say it out loud all the time. It’s sometimes even one of my opening lines when responding to a work e-mail. It’s one of those filler words that you frantically insert into a sentence such as “um” or “like”. But, words like “um” and “like” aren’t as big of a deal because there’s no real meaning behind it.
As for the word sorry, there’s a time and place for when and why you should say it — you should say it when you actually have something to be sorry about and you actually do mean it.
So, why do we abuse this word so much? What profound sense of unconscious guilt do we have that makes us say sorry after even the most insignificant events? And why do we use say it so casually, so reactively when we don’t have anything to be sorry about?
I personally ask myself these questions whenever I hear the words leave my mouth. Although I’ve gotten [slightly] better at saying sorry less frequently, I haven’t fully omitted the word from my vocabulary list. But, there is a case (a few cases, actually) for when to not say sorry.
When you’re scrambling to find an opening line.
In my case, I mentioned earlier that I preface a lot of my work e-mails by saying “I’m so sorry” or “My apologies …” because I don’t want the other person to think that I was intentionally replying late to their e-mail or that I had perhaps completely forgotten to reply to their e-mail. I want to cover my bases.
However, starting an e-mail with an unnecessary apology is completely counterintuitive. It makes you seem as if you did do something wrong and you have something to actually be sorry about (even though you don’t).
When you feel bad for something that you did unintentionally.
Another common case of saying sorry is in a situation where you did something unintentionally such as accidentally bumping into someone or accidentally stepping on the heel of their foot (Again, I’m taking this from personal experience).
Living in New York City, it’s almost unavoidable to accidentally bump into someone on the subway or even when you’re just walking on the sidewalk. And of course, with all the hot tempers floating around, we want to let the other person know that it was not on purpose, therefore we apologize — but, why apologize when it was an accident?
In these situations, it’s normal to be apologetic to avoid any conflict, however, we can substitute sorry with another word. An alternative such as “Pardon me” or “Excuse me” can be used.
When you’re asking for something that you want.
This is one of those cases where it almost seems ridiculous to apologize. For example, there’s no need to apologize when we’re asking an employee at a clothing store for help finding a pair of jeans or when we’re ordering food from a server at a restaurant — Their job is to literally help you.
And on a larger scale, we should also never apologize when we’re asking for something that we legitimately deserve, such as a pay raise at work or a refund for a faulty product we purchased. Apologizing makes it seem like we don’t truly deserve what we’re asking for and it weakens our argument for getting it.
Apologizing too often eventually erases the sincerity behind it.
The sentiment of an apology goes away when we abuse the phrase. We shouldn’t be the boy (or girl) who cried wolf. We shouldn’t let people believe that we feel guilty for every single thing that we say or do. Instead, we should practice saying things that we can replace with “sorry” so that we rid ourselves the bad habit of defaulting to this word. Myself included.