If you spare a thought or two, you'll realise the word "sorry" is littered just as often as "like' or "uhmm" in our daily conversations. While no other word does the job of expressing anguish or remorse well enough, saying sorry too much is doing more harm than good in ways we do not realise. Over-apologising is killing your confidence and downplaying your worth, especially in professional capacities.
Why? Because once you apologise for something it implies you are responsible in some way for the inconvenience or mishap that occurred. But is it your fault that you happened to be driving when someone left a text? Or that the guest speaker is late to the seminar? Very often, we are habitually apologising for something we had not done and only for the sake of chivalry.
We can still be considerate without throwing around the word "sorry". Try using "Thank you for waiting" instead of "Sorry, I'm late". Or, "How about we try..." in place of "Sorry to interrupt...". Even something as simple as "Hey, I was driving/at work" is in no sense a mean reply. The first step is to identify when it is unwanted and then finding a better alternative to what you'd say.
One way to do it is to express gratitude and positivity. Say, there is a slight delay processing the bill at the counter. There is a massive difference between "Sorry, here's your bill" and "Your bill, ma'am, and have a good day".
A number of studies found that women are more likely to apologise than men when given a series of hypothetical offenses. The findings suggested that men have a higher threshold to consider an offense worth an apology. This implies that women are more empathetic. But sometimes, it is necessary to dodge the word as it plays to a disadvantage for women in workplaces.
All of this only brings us to ask when should we really apologise. As easy as it is to slip one out, we all can tell if it is a sincere one. Thus, sincerity is essential. While it is necessary to explain what went wrong that led to an apology, never follow it up with excuses. Excuses show an absence of responsibility. An apology is never about you but the person affected. The key to reforming the bond is, of course, changed behaviour. An apology without corrected behaviour is as useless as a dime thrown in a wishing well.
Apologising is not bad. Just overdoing it impresses a wrong notion of us in the mind of others. However, it's also important that we work around our communication to incorporate a balanced mix of empathy, assertiveness and comfort in terms of the context.
1. The New York Times (April 22, 2019). No, You Don't Have to Stop Apologizing
2. Schumann K. & Ross M. (November, 2010). Why Women Apologize More Than Men: Gender Differences in Thresholds for Perceiving Offensive Behavior
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