I'm Sorry

I’m sorry but do we say “I’m sorry” too much? It’s commonly thought that women say it more often than men and that it weakens our confidence and perception others have of us. There have been books and articles to come out recently encouraging women to apologize less and to be more accepting of our words, feelings, and actions. Plus, if we apologize less, it can make us seem tougher in negotiations and the meeting room.

We apologize in conversation, email, as well as during disagreements. We do it with loved ones, co-workers, and strangers. We do it when we really don’t mean it. Maybe it’s from generations of gender norms and expectations: submissive woman and tough man. But, is it a bad thing? Maybe we’re just trying to smooth things over. Maybe we’re simply expressing empathy and not actually taking the blame for something we didn’t do.

Of course, we all should apologize when we offend someone. So does this mean women offend more often than men? Not necessarily. It turns out, women don’t offend more; we just perceive actions to be more offensive than men do. In other words, men’s threshold for an offense is higher and so they apologize less.

So what to do? How do we stay kind and empathetic while also standing up for ourselves? First, take some time to give this whole thing some thought. How frequently do you apologize? And when you do, why do you? Then, try to be intentional with when you use apologies so it feels right to you. There’s no magic formula as we all have our own communication styles as well as relationship patterns and work dynamics.

If you meant what you said or did and it wasn’t done maliciously or harmed anyone then saying you’re sorry doesn’t fit. If you’re negotiating and wanting to come across as tough then apologizing when you don’t mean it will undermine that. If you’re acting in a relationship whether personal, professional, or social and you want to show empathy then apologizing can indicate that and does not mean you're weak. It means you're kind. The key is to try to be clear with yourself about what you are trying to communicate and how you are trying to be and then be that. Don’t apologize for it.