am a chronic over-apologizer. I am compelled to apologize if someone is slightly inconvenienced or made uncomfortable by something I have done. Or often, because of something I perceived to have done.
It has become such a habit, that it’s basically my go-to phrase whenever I feel uncomfortable. Sometime I will needlessly apologize for something, and my fiancé or my parents will call me on it, and I will apologize for apologizing.
Once, I realize I had actually apologized when my hostess got up from her seat on the couch after I accepted an offer for a glass of water. Are apologies really the response I want to have to gracious hospitality? Of course not!
I came to realize that while I thought the apology was for the benefit of its receiver, it was really for my own benefit. I was assuaging some weird guilt I felt from thinking I had inconvenienced someone. And often, it has the opposite effect than what I had hoped. My unnecessary apologies cause the recipient discomfort or confusion. And any true apology would be drowned out by all the superfluous ones.
I’ve been trying to break the habit, but I didn’t have a good way to reframe my automatic thought pattern. My fiancé, who was becoming weary of my constant apologies, challenged me to think of things differently. He asked me if I could find a way to say “thank you” instead of “I’m sorry”.
His simple question was a lightbulb moment for me. Why haven’t I thought of this before?
Apologies are so ingrained into my speech patterns that it has been a challenged to change my response, but I’m seeing progress.
Just the other day, my fiancé was carrying several loads of things out of my car and into my apartment. After his last trip, he grabbed the trash bag by the door and took it out to the dumpster for me. Just then, I remembered that I had left my gym bag in the car. I called out the window to him on his way back from the dumpster requesting that he pick up my bag.
The next thing I knew, he was back in the apartment without my bag. Unbeknownst to me, he had already locked my car, and needed to come back in to push the unlock button on my keys. I felt terrible for causing him an extra trip after he had already done so much for me, and called out as he returned to the car, “I’m sorry!”
Right after the words slipped out, I recognized the opportunity. I quickly rethought the situation in my head and when he returned, gym bag in hand, I offered a revision. “I retract the ‘I’m sorry’ and replace it with, ‘Thank you for making an extra trip for me.’”
He beamed at me. He felt appreciated and I felt grateful, not apologetic.
This plan just may work.
Do you find yourself apologizing unnecessarily? Why is it something women seem to struggle with more?