28 Things You Really Need to Stop Apologizing For
I’m sorry, but don’t you think people apologize way too much? (See what we did there?) Whether you clogged your friend’s toilet or feel the need order one of every dessert of the menu, you need to stop apologizing. Here’s how.
Crying through a movie in the theater
How many times have you started crying in front of someone and your first reaction has been to apologize? “I’m sorry, I’m not normally like this!” or “I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m so sad.” The thing about feelings though is that we all have them and we don’t get to choose when or how they come, explains Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, a psychologist and author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Steps to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love. Plus, there are some amazing health benefits to having a good cry every once in a while.
Sharing your job promotion on Facebook
If social media has taught us anything, it’s that there’s a fine line between obnoxious bragging and genuine sharing. (For a refresher on that ‘fine line,’ these are the signs you’re sharing way too much on Facebook.) And saying, “I’m sorry but I just had to share” before sharing is an easy way to not appear to be bragging. The problem? Your loved ones want to be happy for you and with you and when you do something good you deserve to be celebrated. Apologizing diminishes your achievement. As long as you’re not announcing a new achievement every day people will likely enjoy your updates.
Not having it all together
Sometimes “I’m sorry” is just a space filler, something to say while you check your notes, look something up, or make a quick text. And while apologizing in this situation isn’t wrong, it’s also perfectly fine to say, “Can you give me a minute, please?” says Dr. Lombardo. Plus this has the added benefit of refocusing the conversation away from a negative thing (the inconvenience of the interruption) to a positive thing (allowing them to help you).
Death comes for every person and unless your extracurriculars involve murder, then you are definitely in no way responsible for this fact of life and are absolved of having to apologize for the inevitable. That said, there’s nothing expressly wrong with saying “I’m sorry for your loss” to someone who’s recently lost a loved one, Dr. Lombardo says, but rather there are so many things that would more accurately express your feelings and offer more comfort in that situation. Defaulting to “I’m sorry” can feel trite, especially when what you really mean is “My heart goes out to you,” “I’m sad with you,” “I care about you,” “I’m here for you” or even “I wish I knew what to say”—so just say those instead. Or you can express your feelings in writing. Need some tips? Try these 13 time-tested tips for writing a condolence card.
Trusting your gut about someone
Sometimes you just get a bad feeling about a situation or a person but out of politeness you may try to smooth over your discomfort by apologizing. Not only is this unnecessary—they are the ones making you feel uncomfortable!—but it can even be dangerous if the other person has bad intentions. In this case, a firm “no” is perfectly appropriate. And don’t offer excuses or reasons as that gives them an opening to argue with you or change your mind. If you’re not sure you can trust your gut, here’s how to sharpen your instincts.
Skipping a workout to Netflix binge
Everyone has days where the bed wins out over the gym, and there’s no shame in that. Regular exercise has a host of mental and physical health benefits, so you don’t want it to be an every day occurrence. But taking a rest day to stay in and recover from a long week or spend time with a loved one? No apologies necessary!
Offering a gentle criticism
There’s no easy way to tell someone else you think they’re doing a bad job at something, and so many of us use “I’m sorry to tell you this but…” as a way to soften a criticism. The problem? “No one really believes you’re sorry, especially when it’s followed by a ‘but’,” Dr. Lombardo says. “Starting with ‘I’m sorry’ diminishes your authority without making the other person feel any better.” Instead, she recommends sandwiching the (hopefully appropriate) criticism between two positive things about the person.
Turning down a date
Putting your feelings out there enough to ask someone out is a real risk and most of us know that. So when you see someone else do it, you want to let them down easy. And the easiest way is to start is with “I’m sorry,” but resist that urge, Dr. Lombardo says. You don’t owe your time or presence to anyone just because they asked, and there’s a way to be kind while still being firm, she explains. Go with “I’m flattered, but I’m afraid I’m busy that night,” or you can be even more direct with a simple “Thank you but the answer is no.”
Telling someone they’re fired
When people say “Don’t shoot the messenger,” that instruction applies to the messenger themselves as well as the people receiving the message. Giving someone else bad news is never fun but don’t blame yourself. (Unless, of course, the bad news is the result of something you did and then by all means apologize profusely and genuinely.) Instead of leading with “I’m so sorry to have to tell you this but…” just start with the truth: “I have something to tell you that may make you upset…” Need more guidance? Here are step-by-step instructions for delivering bad news.
Getting in a car accident
This one is more of a legal liability, but most lawyers agree that if you are in a car accident, don’t say you’re sorry, even if you think it may actually be your fault. Saying “I’m sorry” may be seen as a legal admission of guilt even if you only mean it in the most basic way. You can refrain from admitting guilt while asking if the other person is okay and if there is anything you can do to help. (And call the police.)