No really …stop being overly apologetic! We live in a culture that expects constant apologies, which leads to a nation of people who struggle with establishing boundaries. I wonder, if you take a moment to reflect, how many relationships you can come up with that feel unbalanced: work, in-laws, friends, neighbors, siblings, parents, etc.
Consider the examples:
“I’m sorry to be annoying, I was just wondering if you could take out the trash”
“Sorry I’m late! Traffic was a mess!”
“Hey, I’m sorry to bug you…but when you finish your homework can you come help me watch your sister so I can run to the grocery?”
“I’m sorry, I know you’re busy but I was wondering if you had time to meet with me today?”
“I feel terrible for asking but is there any way you could call that client for me?”
“Sorry I wasn’t here for that meeting, my kids were sick and I had to stay home from school with them.”
(You accidentally bump into someone and they aren’t mad) “I’m so sorry! I lost my balance.”
“I’m sorry to be a bother but do you have the time?”
“Sorry! I didn’t know you were sitting there; I would have never invaded your space like that.”
Can you see what all of these statements have in common? Yes they all start with an apology. But also notice how common they are…AND they are also all scenarios that do not require an apology! Think of the purpose of an apology: to convey to another person the guilt that you feel as a result of an action you chose to make. I hesitate to think that anyone should be made to feel guilty in any of the above scenarios. Guilt is only justified if your own behavior violates your own morals or values. Examples being if you have harmed another person or you damage another person’s property. Missing work as a result of caring for your child, having to ask a stranger for the time, asking a person to do something that falls within their job description, and requesting the help of a family member are all appropriate actions that should not make you feel guilt.
I offer you a suggestion, say “thank you” whenever you want to say “I’m sorry”. I realize this sounds strange; however consider the same scenarios in reverse:
“Can you take out the trash?” (after they do) “Thank you”
“Traffic was really stressful, thanks so much for being patient”
“When you finish your homework I would appreciate if you could come help me by watching your sister so I can run to the grocery”
“I was wondering if you had time to meet with me today?” (if/when they do, say you appreciate them taking time out of their day for you)
“At some point today, I need _____ called. Thanks, you’re awesome!”
“It means a lot to me that I was able to stay home since my kids were sick, thank you.”
(You accidentally bump into someone and they aren’t mad) Laugh it off and strike up a conversation.
“Do you have the time?” (When they tell you the time, thank them)
“I didn’t know you were sitting there. Let me slide down and make room”…then introduce yourself and exchange pleasantries.
Even imagining the second set of situations, I feel a calmness and lightness in the air. I feel we have become so apologetic and so fearful in our culture, that we lose out on opportunities to chat with strangers/neighbors/coworkers. In the workplace, people villainize upper management and don’t share their personal lives at all which makes the job feel cold and impersonal. And in the home, resentments build because there is a lack of teamwork. If we can begin to share ourselves emotionally, connect with those around us and work together, I believe we could experience a much greater enjoyment in life.
THANK YOU for taking time to read this! Try putting it into practice this week and keep an eye out for how frequently you end up apologizing to others.