“ Sorry to interrupt you , but do you say sorry too much ?”
If you ’ re like me , you seem to say “ sorry ” a lot . I realised I use it often as a filler word , especially on my commute when people accidentally bump into me . Sociologist Maja Joivanovic states this is common and saying “ sorry ” has become a habitual way of communicating in our society .
Now , I firmly believe in the power of a genuine “ sorry ” in the right situation . It shows dignity for the times when we have offended or hurt someone and can encourage forgiveness , repair relationships and dissolve hostility .
However , in many situations it ’ s clear we haven ’ t done anything wrong and there is no need to apologise . So why do we do it ?
Individuals who over-apologise often have low self-esteem , a fear of conflict and are anxious over what others think . Looking back to a time when I had less confidence , I would go out of my way to be compliant with people I didn ’ t want to argue with or by whom I didn ’ t want to be rejected . Hindsight has shown that doing this was counter intuitive as this led to an environment where people could take advantage of my anxiety .
Therapy has also revealed that some people who over-apologise believe that they are always at fault in a situation and apologise simply for being involved .
Of course , the danger to overusing a powerful word , other than the harm to yourself , is the more you use it , the less meaning it has . It is like the boy who cries wolf except it ’ s the boy who always says “ sorry ” so no one believes he is genuine .
So how do we replace the word that has been ingrained into our culture while being considerate and confident ? “ Thank you ” works a lot of the time . For instance , instead of saying sorry for complaining , you could just say , “ thank you for listening .” The next time you bump into someone on your commute you could say , “ go ahead ,” “ after you ” or “ excuse me .”
The important step is recognising when “ sorry ” is and isn ' t necessary — and the effect and perception it has . I have learned only to apologise when a mistake I have made hurts another person . And , being sorry is more than just a term — actions also must follow to highlight the sincerity behind it .
I have also learned not to say “ sorry ” simply for bothering people or apologising for having my own opinion or question .
Tim Maguire , senior account manager , RHR
retailappointment . co . uk 09