Growing up doesn’t mean never having to say you’re sorry. But if you’ve grown up as a woman, you’re probably apologizing too much. While a humble and gracious apology certainly has its place, saying you’re sorry for things that aren’t your fault is not winning you any points in the career or relationship department. The good news is that this chronic habit can be curbed with a few simple tricks that will re-wire your mind to communicate with confidence. #sorrynotsorry!
STep One: Don’t Be Sorry
Seems pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. You don’t need an in-depth psychoanalysis to admit to yourself that you want to be liked, and offering an apology to peers and superiors is a quick way to turn down the volume when you’re asking for something, which makes you feel more likable. Or maybe, like many women, you’re simply afraid of being perceived as rude. Perhaps you dread sounding brash. Maybe you cringe when you hear yourself ask for things because you feel “demanding.”
Chances are, your threshold for what constitutes being offensive is probably quite low. According to a study published in Psychological Science, women tend to apologize four times as much as men do — but they also tend to see themselves as committing offensive behavior much more often. This means our self-perception of what people are thinking of our actions and reactions makes us feel like we need to apologize for everything.
But let us put it this way: YES, IT IS OKAY TO WANT THINGS. It’s okay to have needs. It’s okay to be a human being in the year 2017 who identifies as a woman and yet also has goals and ambitions. When you apologize for having, you know, realistic expectations, you’re actually damaging the collective social underpinning of those expectations. If someone feels negatively toward you because you dare to address your needs, wants, and self-actualization process, that’s on them.
So don’t pretend to be the problem when you’re not. The sooner you can give yourself the gift of saying “IDGAF,” the better off you’ll be — and you’ll find those “sorries” aren’t so quick to fly.
Step Two: WAIT A SECOND
When you’re reframing your state of mind to be less apologetic, it might take some getting used to. Remember that silence can be a pretty efficient communication tool; practice taking a moment between receiving information and responding to it. Imagine how you’ll feel about the words you want to use before you let them escape. Part of being overly apologetic comes from feeling pressure to react to situations before we’re ready to address the issues the situations force us to confront. Don’t be afraid to wait a beat before you speak, especially if frustration or embarrassment is the first emotion you feel.
During your pause, remind yourself that apologizing for something doesn’t necessarily make an undesirable conversation easier for the other person, either. In fact, psychiatric research tells us that saying you’re sorry doesn’t even make the recipient of the apology feel any better about what they’re hearing; it simply makes the conversation more difficult to have because the other party feels obliged to offer forgiveness.
Step three: Say What You’re Trying to Say
Often, “sorry” is used as a way to soften the blow when we need to communicate something disappointing or inconvenient to somebody else. Instead of apologizing for what you need to say, try to get out of your own way and just say it. No need to add degrees of dread or anticipation to your delivery.
If you find it difficult to disappoint somebody without offering an empty apology first, start small by expressing your regret in a less self-effacing way. Language like “I hate to be the one to tell you this,” or “I’d hoped for a different outcome” addresses your feelings without the crown of blame that a “sorry” places on your head. There’s no need to be a martyr when it comes to, you know, making statements.
If you feel like someone is waiting for you to fulfill the social expectation of an empty apology, don’t play along. Turn their expectation on its head by doing something far more gracious and issuing a “thank you.” Thanking someone for their feedback, input, or even negative criticism lets people know that you’re self-assured enough to communicate maturely. Remember that it’s more impressive to take criticism in stride than to pretend that you’re supposed to be perfect.
Step Four: Feel Free to Forgive… Yourself
It’s a good idea to try to wean yourself off the self-deprecating sorry cycle. But if you figure out that you’re not quite ready to cut apologies out of the way you communicate, that’s okay too. Getting upset about these kinds of habits because they’re hard to change is counterproductive.
Seizing control of your own narrative is about finding a way to speak that emboldens you and highlights your strengths. If you’re distracted by self-doubt and criticism over your habitual apologies, that’s not going to work to your advantage, either. By becoming more aware of the words that you use, and the reasons why you’re using them, you’re already more empowered.
Have any tips for how to stop apologizing for things that aren’t your fault? Tell us @BritandCo!
(Photo via Getty)