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  • Writer's pictureLaura

Jump off the apology train

Language has power

The words we say and think, have an impact on how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves. The Oxford English dictionary defines “sorry” as:

“feeling regret or penitence” or “ feeling sad or distressed through sympathy with someone else's misfortune”

Have you every taken the time to observe the times you have apologised to others? When we start to actually listen to ourselves, we soon realise that the vast majority of times we apologise, isn’t due to when we are at fault.

Any of these phrases sound familiar?

“Sorry to bother you but…”

“I’m sorry, this isn’t what I ordered…”

“so sorry, I can’t make your party…”

“I’m sorry to be a pain but…”

Over-apologising can make an individual seem weak, submissive or unconfident.

Apologising for behaviours or events that are not your own, may suggest that you're taking on the moral responsibility - and any stress or anxiety that comes along with that, for others, which has a direct impact on our own mood and emotions.

Over-apologising can also dilute messages. For example, if you which to make a complaint or communicate a difficult message, an apology will lessen the strength of your argument. Secondly it also dilutes any instances where you are genuinely sorry for those times where you may actually be at fault.

Why do we apologise?

Low Self-Esteem

If you have experienced years of feeling or being told that you are “wrong”, “less than” or “not enough”, then automatically taking on the blame or apologising can be a habitual response. If you think less of yourself, then it is very easy to fall into the loop of assuming you are in the wrong or are being judged negatively by others.

Results of Boundary Setting

Believing that you have let others down, can evoke feelings of guilt or shame. Consider this a little further however, and you may realise that when we say no to others, it is commonly when we are putting our own personal boundaries in place.

Setting our own personal boundaries is a way of establishing our own standards, by actioning what we are willing or unwilling to accept within our life right now.

Setting boundaries is a healthy act of self-love and self-respect, and apologising for an act of self-love is hugely disempowering.

Every single time we do this, we are sending our unconscious mind the message that “I am not worthy or deserving”.


Over-apologising can also be used as a tool to avoid uncomfortable feelings or conversations. This can be especially true if you recognise “people pleaser” behaviours within yourself.

Our brains have evolved to escape pain, and awkward or uncomfortable feelings are an example of pain.

The great thing is however, the more we get used to this feeling, the more familiar and easier it gets, and this new form of communication will become habit!

Fear of being disliked or judged

Fear of the judgement of others, is essentially allowing other people to dictate your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours. You will be amazed at how freeing it feels, to accept the fact that other people have their own judgements or opinions and that’s OK.

If others’ opinions about you are negative, it doesn’t make it true. It is merely a reflection of their own map of the world created by their personal experiences and actually has little to do with you.

If you feel you over-apologise and recognise some of the information here, there are a few things that may help you.

1. Consider whether you are really at fault

You do not need to apologise for things you didn’t do, for others’ behaviour, for things you can’t control, for your own wants and needs, for your feelings, for not knowing everything or for not being perfect.

2. Don’t give excuses

"No" can be a full sentence, however if you want to expand further then “Thank you so much for waiting for me”, “I graciously decline but I hope it goes well for you”, “this doesn’t fit for me right now but thank you for thinking of me” are perfectly acceptable, polite responses.

3. Exercise your assertive muscle

Assertiveness doesn’t mean rude and you can easily remove any “sorry” and replace with other words. For example, “Excuse me, I ordered no sauce with this”, “I have a question, can you help me please?”, “I appreciate you asking but I can’t make that happen”.

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