How Often Do You Apologize?

I made a new friend this past winter, and as I got to know her, I noticed there was something different about her that I really loved. I couldn’t put my finger on it for the longest time — I just kept referring to it as refreshing — and then I realized: she doesn’t make excuses, and she isn’t constantly apologizing.

For example, recently, we made tentative plans to get together for drinks. The day of, she sent me a text asking for a raincheck. Her reason? She just felt blah, a little under the weather, and wanted to stay cuddled up at home. If the tables were turned, I would have concocted an excuse for the same reason, and then apologized like, ten times, simply because I would have felt so bad about potentially letting someone down, or coming across as bitchy. The reality though, was that I appreciated her reason, wasn’t mad, and totally got it. It’s so nice to be around someone who is so unapologetically straight, and who, despite all that, is also SO sweet and genuine.

It’s been really eye opening to see in my own life how frequently I feel the need to apologize or excuse something. Just the other day, a woman I used to regularly babysit for called last minute asking if I could come over that afternoon to spend some time with her kiddos. I was busy that day, with a deadline, and I had plans to make carbonara for dinner — I had been looking forward to it all day. I stumbled over my words as I declined and ended up profusely apologizing multiple times, and I even said I had plans to go out, which wasn’t true. It felt weird to simply say, “I’m not available tonight but I really hope you find someone!” — even though that would have been completely legit, right?

My mom has said, “You don’t always have to explain yourself” and I think she has a great point. Do you find yourself apologizing a lot? One interesting thing: I lived in Denmark my junior year of college, and in Danish, there’s really no direct translation for “sorry” — the closest word translates as “excuse me.” It made me realize how frequently I felt the need to apologize as I went about my day.

This Amy Schumer skit pretty much says it all. I also thought this New York Times Article had an interesting point:

When a woman opens her window at 3 a.m. on a weeknight and shouts to her neighbor, “I’m sorry, but can you turn the music down?” the “sorry” is not an attempt at unobtrusiveness. It’s not even good manners. It’s a poor translation for a string of expletives. These sorrys are actually assertive. Unfortunately, for both addresser and addressee alike, the “assertive apology” is too indirect, obscuring the point. It comes off as passive-aggressive — the easiest of the aggressions to dismiss.


4 thoughts on “How Often Do You Apologize?

  1. Yes! I just recently discovered that this past year. I was going through a time where I really wanted to be alone and not date until I got my head together. When guys would ask me out I would make up some crap excuse and say sorry. I finally realized there’s no need to apologize for the way I felt especially if it really had nothing with the guy. So from then on if anyone asks and I simply don’t want to I say “No, but I really appreciate you asking me.” and I’ve very rarely been asked why and when they do, I am completely honest. Most liberating discovery! 🙂

  2. I loved this post! I think the problem is that we don’t want to come across as rude, but there are such kind ways to get your point across that isn’t rude in the least. Your example about your friend canceling plans was a great one. It reminds me of the John Mulaney quote “In terms of instant relief, canceling plans is like heroin.” Haha!

    I notice my over-apologizing ways especially in times like when someone bumps into me on the sidewalk. Right after I say I’m sorry I almost immediately think, “Wait, I’m not sorry at all. YOU bumped into ME!”

  3. I like the Danish way–it’s much more interactive if you think about it. It’s much less about “I feel this way” and rather “what I did affected you and I hope you can excuse me.”

    Also, I’ve been thinking about this article via Cup of Jo about saying thank you. Especially #2. It’s made me want to save my apologies.

  4. And this article too (also via Cup of Jo):

    As you can see, apologizing and gendered language is something I think about and am working on. I realized years later that while in college, when a man broke into my room in the middle of the night and I awoke to him on top of me, I pushed him off and apologized!! What? We’re so ingrained to be polite and kind, sometimes at the detriment of ourselves. Current me would NOT have reacted that way.

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