Over-Apology and Self-Sabotage

I recently came upon this short video satirizing women's propensity to over-apologize. Very silly, but I thought it made the point all too well! Do you see yourself in any of this?

Naturally, there is a time and a place to apologize, such as when you have genuinely made a mistake that came at a price to someone else, or if you hurt someone's feelings. But for some people it has become habit to use "sorry" as a filler... almost like you might say "um." Have you ever heard an exchange like this:

- Bill: "Can you pass me a copy of the agenda?"

- Sue: "Oh, sorry, sure."

Unless Sue failed to give Bill a copy when everyone else got one, what on earth is she apologizing for? Just omit it: "Oh, sure."

Part of the problem is that when you apologize, you plant the idea in someone's head that you did something bad for which you should apologize to them, which implies that they've been wronged somehow. This constantly puts you in a subordinate position, giving others power over whether or not to forgive you, when you didn't do anything wrong in the first place! Talk about sabotaging your own reputation as a competent leader...

On the flip side, some people need to learn the humility to apologize once in a while when they have done wrong by others, intentionally or otherwise, rather than standing behind denial or pride, as if an apology would show unforgivable weakness.

A priest friend of mine once clarified what I think is an extremely important and powerful distinction between humiliation and humility: Humiliation strips people of dignity; humility restores it. Sincere humility as demonstrated by the occasional, well-timed apology is truly a mark of strong leadership, leading by example and integrity. However, so is knowing when not to apologize, simply because you did nothing that requires it! Neither politeness nor leadership requires self deprecation.

Here's the take-away: If you use "Sorry" as often as teenagers use "Like," it's time to get a verbal grip. Stand tall, speak out, and find some other, more accurate and appropriate phrase to express your thoughts. Don't tear yourself down in front of others; build yourself up!

Dr. Laura Sicola PhD