Have you ever noticed how often Kiwis say ‘sorry’? If you haven’t, start listening right now. We say ‘sorry’ before we’ve even got a single sentence out of our mouths! “I’m sorry to bother you, but can you tell me the way to…” “Sorry to intrude, but could I just borrow your …?” “Sorry I’m not available but …” “Sorry, it’s not as good as I’d hoped but …”
We’re sorry for almost everything – often several times in the space of a few seconds. We’re a nation of apologisers, and while apologies are often needed and appreciated, there are many instances where not only is ‘sorry’ not required, but it’s downright out of place and not in the best interests of anyone, especially yourself.
Saying ‘sorry’ randomly and with little thought (such as apologising for having been bumped into by someone, or for asking directions) can often lead you to feel somehow inferior to others, as if everything is your fault. Unfortunately, it can also lead to being abused by others because, like it or not, there are those who recognise a lack of confidence in those around them, and who take advantage of it. In fact, there are those who, unwittingly or not, actually seek out apologisers who they perceive will be easily manipulated.
Saying ‘sorry’ when there’s no need, also leads to an undervaluing of a sincere apology. Save ‘sorry’ for when you’ve really caused inconvenience or hurt, and your friend/partner/colleague will pick up on the fact that you genuinely mean it, and will in turn be more likely to understand and quickly forgive.
Similarly, when you stop apologising for caring for yourself (for example, when you stop saying “Sorry I’m not available”) you’ll actually find you receive more respect from others. You’ll also find that you’re not put upon so often to carry out tasks you simply don’t have time for, and better still, when you are genuinely available to help, you’ll be appreciated in the way you should be.
Relationships also benefit when you hold back from unnecessary apologising. When you stop trying to smooth over a situation by saying ‘sorry’ for something that isn’t actually your fault, you’ll discover the opportunity to discuss the real root of the problem. Instead of hiding the difficulty behind a wall of apologies, you’ll be opening yourself up to working through whatever the grievance may be.
While forgoing saying ‘sorry’ when it’s really not required may sound easy, if you’re a serial apologiser you’ll be surprised at just how difficult breaking the habit can be. That’s because ‘sorry’ fills a lot of empty spaces, and silence and space can be very anxiety-provoking (especially so for sorry-sayers who are often live in the anxiety zone). So next time you feel a ‘sorry’ coming on (for something you’ve no reason to be sorry for) count to twenty before you open your mouth. Then count to fifty. Chances are, the anxious moment will by then be over, the person you wanted to apologise to will either have gone on their way unperturbed, or have moved onto a new subject – and you’ll have experienced your first success at not saying ‘I’m sorry’ when you absolutely didn’t need to in the first place!