I’m sorry I’m late, the traffic was dreadful.
I’m sorry I didn’t call, I got held up at work.
I’m sorry, I don’t agree
I’m sorry about the state of the kitchen.
I’m sorry my hair’s a mess, I haven’t done it today.
I’m sorry about the state of my car, I’ve not had chance to clean it.
Do you spend your life apologising? Do you find yourself seeking forgiveness even when something isn’t your fault? Are you the type who apologises before asking for something that is perfectly reasonable… I’m sorry to ask but could you turn down the music?
I recently became aware that saying sorry was very much part of my daily speech pattern. Having done a lot of work recognising the things my inner voice, Miss Meddler, would say and benefitting from this exercise hugely (refer to my book ‘Enough’ for more on this), I did the same thing on my ‘outer’ voice. I tuned in to the things I said in certain situations. Apologising was a biggie!
I think some of this is down to spending my childhood at strict catholic primary and secondary schools which were highly effective at making you feel guilt, even when you weren’t guilty. I swear the Head Teacher, a Nun in her sixties, was able to bore holes in my head with her eyes as she walked the line of children trying to establish which one of us had put paper towels in the sink and caused a flood. In that moment, even though I hadn’t done it, I wanted to say sorry.
I also think that some of the apologising comes from a place of low-self esteem which has compounded over time and like many patterns, becomes habitual. It’s never being quite sure; not having enough confidence or the self-belief and saying sorry is almost a metaphorical apologising for my own existence. It can also be linked to the need for approval for the way we live our lives but of course, we don’t need approval. We can live and behave as we wish.
Even now, though my self-esteem is stronger and my confidence is soaring I still say sorry, A LOT. It’s part of my make-up. It’s what I have learned over time. And honestly, a lot of the time, I’m not actually sorry, it’s just something I am have become accustomed to saying.
It got me thinking about when I am sorry and when I am not. This led me to consider the person I am apologising to and I established four things:-
- When my actions haven’t wronged another person, and I’m not genuinely sorry, I don’t need to say sorry.
- If what I’ve done has impacted somebody else negatively, I can respond to this in a positive way which will make the person feel valued, rather than providing a ‘sorry’, followed by an excuse for my actions.
- When I find myself apologising as a reaction to criticism, i.e. somebody says ‘look at the state of your car’ and my immediate response is ‘I know, I’m sorry’, I can change this response.
- If I have done something that I feel badly about or my actions have upset another person, I can give a genuine, heartfelt sorry and mean it.
So this means 99% of my apologies disappear.
In the case of point one, instead of apologising about the state of my muddy car or my messy hair, I simply need to say nothing. Is the plumber really wronged if my kitchen has a few pots of the drainer? NO. Therefore, no apology needed.
In the case of point two. Next time I am late, rather than saying sorry and giving an excuse such as ‘there was a tractor on the road’, I can think about the how the person I was late to meet has been impacted. Recognising I have kept the person waiting I can thank them for waiting for me. This shows that I value their time and patience rather than making the situation about me.
For point three I can learn to think before I react. Rather than blurting out an apology as a response to the quip about my muddy car, I can say something like ‘Oh, I wouldn’t let it worry you’ and remove my own feelings from the equation entirely.
This approach will leave lots of space for scenario four, where there is a need for a genuine, heart-felt apology which I can make thoughtfully.
The less we say sorry when it doesn’t really matter, the more meaningful sorry becomes.
What I am learning is that I can be a loving, appreciative, caring person without having to constantly apologise and in doing so I am respecting myself.
Have a listen to yourself this week and see how often the word ‘sorry’ tumbles from your mouth and why. It might surprise you.
If you are enjoying my blog, you may also enjoy my new book ‘Enough’. You can find it on amazon for Kindle Edition pre-order now. There are limited number of signed paper-backs available on my website here and the amazon paperback edition will be available later in June. xx