I'm Sorry That I Can't Stop Saying "I'm Sorry!"...Sorry.

Whenever I come up with a good idea for a blog, it’s likely that it came to me (suggested to me, rather. Sorry!) on a long run. It’s just sort of how my world works. I put on my running shoes and head out the door, to run a seemingly absurd amount of miles on a Saturday, long before anyone should humanly be awake, and I think about all of the things going on in my life. If I think back far enough, the reason I started running was to hit this magical thought bubble head on, and experience full and complete relief of all my mental capacities. I use long runs as think tanks, but also as a cathartic release, simply downloading all of the useless information my brain has collected for the entire week into a small, useful little capsule, that I can neatly file away. Need me on a Saturday morning? Sorry, out for a run.

But, somewhere, at some point, lost in my own personal self-absorbed train of thought, I likely stop paying attention just long enough that I stumble into one of my running pals. I quickly mutter, “I’m sorry!” and cheerfully go about my way, apologizing for the fact that I was in her way. Or maybe, that’s not right. Maybe I was apologizing for stepping on her foot. No, that’s probably not it. I was likely sorry for simply taking up space.

Have you ever noticed how many times that you say “I’m sorry!” in a day? You probably haven’t (if you did, like me, you’d probably be on a quest to stop doing so) - that’s because it’s become so uniquely peppered into our language as a space filler, a preemptive statement to just about anything that you’re about to say. In fact, most times, you’re simply apologizing for uttering an affirmative sentence.

I'm Sorry That I Can't Stop Saying "I'm Sorry!"...Sorry.

It seems to me, that saying “I’m sorry!” has simply become a reflexive societal twitch.

“Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t see you there.”

“Sorry, but is anyone sitting here?”

“I’m sorry I didn’t respond sooner…” or “Sorry, I missed your text…” (P.S. No one “misses texts.”)

In fact, we have become so conditioned to say, “I’m sorry” as a simple preposition to our sentences that it’s likely you didn’t even notice how many times I’ve said “I’m sorry” in this post already. (I’ll wait while you go back and check.)

Even more interesting, it’s not just been noticed, but it’s been studied. Recent research suggests that, yes, women do apologize more than men, but interestingly, they also report more offenses, suggesting that women have a lower threshold for what they consider offensive. When did we become so afraid of being offensive, for fuck’s sake?

What’s more egregious about this research is that men apologized only when they felt that the offense deemed an apology, which was infrequent. Women, however? We were apologizing all the damn time.

“I’m sorry, but that color is just awful on you.”

“I’m so sorry but…do you think you could shut up?”

“I’m sorry your boyfriend is a dirtbag, Carol…”

Saying sorry seems to have been bred from a bygone culture of over-politeness, the overly apologetic statement that has become the buffer phrase to a variety of sentences.

So, this week, I thought of all the useless times that I said that I’m sorry: when someone bumped into me (heaven forbid that I take up space), when I spoke up in a crowded room, when I reached over someone at the grocery store (sir, please move), when I text a friend early in the morning (it was 6am after all), when I made a loud noise in the kitchen, when I sneezed, when I didn’t have dinner ready on time, when I apologized to my cat for getting home late, when I was sick… I won’t bore you (sorry!) but the list could go on and on. Oops. Did it again. Sorry. (Which, now come to think of it, brings up a valuable question: Did Britney Spears ever say she was sorry?)

I'm Sorry That I Can't Stop Saying "I'm Sorry!"...Sorry.

So, instead, the better question is: are we sorry? No. And for what purpose would we need to be sorry? Not a single one of those offenses that I mentioned above warranted an apology (nor my apologies for the apology). Not once would someone have responded as eagerly back to me, “Apology accepted!” Especially my cat, that jerk.

Here’s the thing. The more that we apologize for stupid shit (sorry for the profanity), the more that it lessens the apology. See what I mean? Many times, myself included, “I’m sorry!” becomes an automatic response to just about anything. Much like the hated space filler “umm….,” an “I’m sorry” fills the empty space in between words for almost no reason. It’s just a knee-jerk reaction to being unsure what to say.

So, how can we stop doing it? As women, I feel that we have come so far but we hold ourselves back. Should we apologize? Absolutely, but, only when an apology is absolutely necessary. For me, it’s been an issue of rewiring my brain, forcing myself to take the automatic apology out of my vocabulary.

If you struggle with it like I do, here’s a few ways that I’ve found to help:

  • Get yourself an accountability partner who helps point out over apology.

  • Intentionally use other phrases, such as “excuse me” or “pardon me”

  • Think if “apology accepted” would make sense before you say sorry

  • When possible, consider switching the negative “I’m sorry” for a more positive “Thank you …”

    • Ex: “I’m sorry I missed that….” vs. “Thank you for alerting me…”

And ultimately, it’s being aware of a willingness to change. With all habits and learned behavior, it might be difficult at first, but when you create a pattern of action, you will succeed. And if together, we can overcome this over apologetic behavior? That’s something that I’m not sorry about.

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I'm Sorry for Saying Sorry

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