Writer | Speaker | Activist

stuff your sorries in a sack.

We apologize too much. And I mean waaaaay too much.  As women, we are even worse than men. We apologize for everything. And most of the time, we don’t even realize we are doing it. How often do you find yourself doing any of these things?

“Oops! Sorry!”

You just bumped into someone in the grocery store by accident. Or maybe you didn’t even bump into them, you just needed to pass in front of their line of sight while they’re stopped in front of something, or your cart is hogging up the aisle and you move it to let someone pass. Regardless of what’s going down, you didn’t do anything wrong, but you need to show that you acknowledge that you are unintentionally in someone else’s way. The words just come tumbling out of your mouth like a reflex.

No. Just stop, okay?

The proper response is, “Excuse me.” When did we stop using our perfectly good manners and start feeling guilty for something that is a normal part of everyday life?

Now, if you have a toddler that is doing donuts around someone’s ankles and they end up dropping the custom sheet cake on the floor, it’s absolutely okay to apologize.

 “Sorry I am late to respond. {Cue completely legit reason}.”

As one of my favorite systems administrators says, “there is no such thing as an urgent email.” I would say that sentiment also extends to texts/social media posts.  We’ve created a norm of always always available, instant gratification laden heavily with an expectation that all conform.

In an effort to be more productive at work (because there is no such thing as multitasking), I’ve turned off the email notification that pops up in the corner of my screen. I’ve turned off most of the notifications on my phone as well. I check my email/Facebook/Instagram on my own time and respond accordingly. It’s a regular occurrence that someone at work IM’s me moments after sending me an email with the question, “did you see my email?!?!” and then proceeds to be flabbergasted when I said I hadn’t yet. Unless the communication is of extremely urgent nature, it’s okay not to respond right away.  If you need an immediate response, pick up the phone.

Otherwise, simply responding is good. You can always throw in, “what a crazy day it’s been!” to explain your delay without apologizing.

Realistically, you don’t need to justify your reason for being slow to respond. If you haven’t responded yet, I’ll assume that you’re busy and will get back to me later. Or if you’re my sister, I know that you probably have your nose buried in homework and you may or may not ever get back to me until the next time I reach out. And that’s OK!

“Sorry, I didn’t know…”

The scenario—you invite friends over for dinner and one of the guests doesn’t like something you worked hard to prepare. Your response: “Sorry, I didn’t know about your dietary restrictions.” Or, even worse, “I didn’t know you were allergic!”

No. Just. No.

As a mother, I do my due diligence to ask the parents of my daughter’s friends if I have any allergy needs to worry about. I ask this from a first aid perspective more so than a culinary aspect.  That said, if I know that you’re allergic to nuts, I’m not going to serve you a Thai curry with peanut sauce.

You don’t need to apologize for not knowing something that you shouldn’t be expected to know. Really. I promise. A better response is, “Oh, I wish I had known!” and then you can decide if you want to offer an alternative to your guest.

If you are invited to eat at someone’s house and you have dietary needs, it’s your responsibility to communicate that to your host, without the expectation that they accommodate you. I have a friend that is on a very strict diet and she makes no shame in bringing her own food, just in case the host is serving something she’s not able to eat.

“I’m sorry. What I meant was…”

When someone disagrees with an opinion we present, we are quick to adjust our position to avoid the conflict.  Why do we do this?

I’m sure it stems from the new social norm that we’ve created with our uber political correctness that we are deathly afraid of offending someone and/or we do our darndest to please others and fit in. We appear to be overly polite with one another, even though as a society, we are less kind and empathetic.  We seem to have lost the importance of staying true to ourselves, first and foremost (probably because we’ve been conditioned to believe that is selfish, instead of a way to practice self-care, but I digress.) But there is a core difference between calling an Asian person “Oriental” and saying that we don’t prefer to eat sushi. And yet, we’ve managed to pull these two very different mindsets into the same categorical level of offensiveness that is worthy of apology.

The words “I’m sorry” have become so overused that they have become virtually meaningless. We’ve even gotten accustomed to apologizing for not feeling sorry about something (#sorrynotsorry)!  Are we really apologizing for these things?

I don’t think we are. Because we’re not sorry.

I really hope not, anyway.

So why have we been conditioned to apologize so much?

I think what it really boils down to is shame. We are SO good at shaming each other and feeling shamed. It’s so prevalent in our society that one of my favorite social experts, Brene Brown, has dedicated her life’s research to shame and why we feel it. We have failed to own our stories, and instead, in our great pursuit of acceptance, we are quick to apologize for who we are, lest we be judged by others.

I’m going to challenge you to put out a “sorry jar” and start dropping a quarter in it every time you apologize for something you shouldn’t. At the end of the month, you’ll probably be able to take yourself out to a nice dinner, or get some new shoes. Let’s make a conscious movement to save our sorries for when they are really necessary.

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