Try This: Stop Apologizing

Why we need to stop the excessive use of "sorry " and instead ask for what we really want.
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Why we need to stop the excessive use of "sorry " and instead ask for what we really want.

Much has been said of late about how apologizing excessively and unnecessarily has become a social norm practiced (predominately) by women. We sat down with Kassia Binkowski, Founder + Creative Director at www.onethousanddesign.com, to get her thoughts on the topic. Today she tells us why its important we "stop saying sorry more than we should" and how we all benefit from (unapologetically) using our voices to ask for what we want. 

We’ve all been there. We’re sitting in a meeting and want to interject our opinion; we are not interrupting, we are not out of line. On the contrary, we are a welcome voice in the conversation, we were invited to have a seat at that table and we have every right to offer our thoughts. Still, without fail (and perhaps without thought) a “sorry” slips from our lips.

The circumstances are always changing. First it’s contributing to a meeting or asking a question of a colleague, then it’s an innocent elbow bump on the subway or taking up a completely reasonable amount of space on an elevator. The word sorry has become an ice breaker for self-expression among women, a reality that warrants closer consideration.

The research is clear, women apologize more often than men. Perhaps it’s because men have a higher threshold for what they find offensive. Or maybe women are still reacting to an era when signs of strength were deemed inappropriate. Either way, the result is the same - our gender pays a price when women say sorry more often than they should.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the reasons why women should stop apologizing:

  • Sorry is not a synonym for “I have a different perspective,” or “may I ask you a question,” or “excuse me.” Every time we use the word in this way it loses a little bit of its true meaning in the moments when a sincere apology really is most appropriate.

  • Using “sorry” as a preface to our requests and opinions is a passive aggressive form of assertion, making whatever follows more easy to dismiss.

  • Cushioning so much of what we say with “I’m sorry” only serves to make women seem underserving, submissive, and deferential. This use of language reinforces centuries of stereotypes that women don’t deserve the chance to be heard and seen.

  • When we say “I’m sorry” we assume some amount of blame for the situation at hand. But the truth is, elevators get filled up, questions are warranted and many voices - yours included - make up a conversation. Using the word sorry less frequently requires changing our default setting from one of guilt to one of worth.

So how do we break such a bad habit?

The same way we quit biting our nails. Start by tracking the unnecessary apologies. Keep a tally of how often you say it and start paying attention to why. Understanding what the triggers are can help you choose more effective language to use in its place. Speak with intention and try not to let the word “sorry” slip from your lips if an apology isn’t actually appropriate. You can always ask your friends and family for support. Kicking a difficult habit is hard work and it’s likely you’ll need someone else to help hold you accountable.

After all, we’re in this together. We all know that we need to say what we want in order to get what we want. We’re doing one another and ourselves a disservice if we soften those requests, if we apologize for having the strength to have a voice and a presence.

p.s. The power of one simple phrase: "I'm here for you".