I am an over apologizer. There, I said it, but I am actively working on it. I apologize for everything: asking a question, knowing an answer, getting your attention, running late, smiling, standing still, or even breathing in your direction. Sometimes the words “I’m sorry” fly out of my mouth so quickly, I don’t even realize it. Typically, an unnecessary apology is met with “you don’t have to apologize,” “no worries,” or worse yet, “STOP APOLOGIZING!” (Yelling at me doesn’t make it better). Can you relate? My anxiety makes me apologize for existing.
An apology is usually reserved for some form of wrong-doing or disrespect, intentionally or unintentionally. If you’re not doing anything wrong, then there’s no need to apologize. If you’re like me, you know that’s much easier said than done. There are a lot of reasons you may be an over apologizer, but it doesn’t have to be a life-long identity. Afraid of coming off as annoying or embarrassing? Generally uncomfortable in social situations? Were you met with negative reactions when expressing your feelings, needs, or thoughts as a child and/or an adult? Whatever fuels the little voice that makes you apologize, you can acknowledge it and train it to be better.
I’ve been actively working on forming and maintaining boundaries and being more unapologetic, both literally and figuratively. My interactions, behaviors, needs, thoughts, and feelings are not inherently wrong; unless I have offended someone, of course. Why am I so ready to accept blame for any behavior? I have found that it’s typically the quiet, introverted, and anxious types that are chronic apologizers. We’re in our heads about our actions when we’re usually the least offensive. The folks that do need some introspection and self-awareness could take notes from us, but I digress.
Coming up with words to replace with “I’m sorry” is not easy, especially if it’s been your go-to phrase for most of your life. I have been practicing a lot over the past several months, and it’s not terrible. Granted, I have fake conversations in the mirror and write draft texts/e-mails to no one, but it takes the pressure off stressing about stumbling in the moment. I am not afraid to admit I do a great deal of rehearsing before any social situation.
Since I have a hard time with this, and I am sure I am not alone, I thought it would be good to offer suggestions for reframing your apology. Sorry is still my first thought, but now I say or think, “actually, I’m not sorry,” and try to come up with something else. It’s been yielding some pretty good results.
When you’re running/ arriving late
- Thank you for waiting for me.
- Hey, I am running a little late. I should be there in 10 minutes if that’s okay.
- I wanted to let you know I am on my way, but traffic is heavy. Please feel free to order a few things without me. I can’t wait to join you!
Responding to an email after a day…or seven
- Thank you for your patience. Here’s the information you requested.
- I appreciate your patience while I was out of the office last week.
- Thank you for following up with me.
- I had a few priority projects that delayed this response.
- I plan to address this next week. Thank you in advance for your patience.
When someone points out an error
- Nice/ good/ great catch!
- Thank you for pointing that out.
- Thank you for the correction.
- Thank you for bringing that to my attention.
- I will make the change and keep it in mind for the future.
- I am feeling drained after the work week, could we look at another day to get together?
- We have plans for tomorrow, but could we make it next week? My battery is running a little low.
- Thanks again for the invite to the party tonight, but unfortunately I won’t be able to make it. I hope you have a blast! We can catch up afterward.
- Hey, I am not feeling up to meeting tonight. Can we reschedule? I sincerely appreciate you making time for us.
- I’ve had some changes in my schedule so I won’t be free like we planned. Would you be open to a rain check?
- I appreciate the invite, but I won’t be able to make it.
- That sounds like a fun time. Unfortunately, I am not available. Can you keep me in mind for the next one?
- Thanks for thinking of me, but I have to decline.
- No, thank you.
Asking a question
- I have a question.
- Quick question!
- Can you provide a little more clarity on this topic?
- I’m not too clear on this topic/ direction/ process. Can we schedule a few minutes to discuss more?
- I am unfamiliar with this subject. Can I ask you a few questions? Thanks for your patience and guidance.
When you’re existing
- I matter.
- I belong.
- I am here.
- I am important.
- I do not need to apologize.
- I deserve to take up space.
- I deserve compassion and patience.
If you’re an over apologizer, I hope you will be working with me to reframe your thinking and limit your apologies. It’s not easy; it won’t happen overnight. You are not perfect on purpose. You are human. You do not need to apologize for your everyday feelings, thoughts, or actions, especially if they’re not hurting or negatively impacting others. We put so much pressure on ourselves when we primarily need to be focused on just living and being. We can always work on doing that a lot more and not be sorry about it.