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Apology Addiction

It’s not as if Lena Dunham is the first person to point out that women have a problem with apologizing too much (“I am a woman who is sometimes right, sometimes wrong but somehow always sorry.”), but she is the most recent person to bring it up and push it back into my mind.  Every time I hear it, I start noting how often I say “sorry” in conversation.  Not changing anything; just noting it.

I tried searching my email account for the term “sorry,” and thousands of emails popped up, though the apologies were sometimes real and sometimes not mine.  It was easier to do a search on my blog for the term because it only brought up my own posts.  215.  I didn’t look at all 215 cases, but I did notice in the handful that I looked at that I often apologize for my opinion.  Sorry that I feel this way on my own blog.  So 216 cases in about 3,200.

It’s interesting; it’s something I notice a lot in other women, but miss that I’m doing it, too.  I know I am because when I read articles about it, it feels very familiar, like slipping on a well-worn hoodie.  I’m an apologizer; it’s how I pave my way through life.  I apologize for not understanding and needing to ask follow up questions.  I apologize for interruptions.  I apologize for asking anything of anyone.  And I apologize for stating how I view the world.

Unlike Lena Dunham, I’m not going to say that I’ll stop doing it because writing those words would necessitate another apology when I inevitably fail.  Because I know myself.  I mean, could I if I dedicated my entire being to the endeavour?  Probably.  But it’s not worth the energy expended.

Still, it’s an interesting exercise.  Go to your blog dashboard.  Do a search for the words “I’m sorry.”  Record how many times you’ve written that on your blog and note your total number of posts.  It’s eye-opening.


1 a { 05.31.16 at 8:09 am }

I’m not much for apologizing for much of anything…and certainly not for my opinion. If I say “Sorry, but…” I’m sorry for you that you are completely wrong. I most often use sorry for when I trip over or bump into other people (fairly frequent) or to express condolences. Benefit of thinking you’re always right, I guess? 🙂

2 Beth { 05.31.16 at 8:11 am }

I don’t have a blog to search but I know I apologize too much. My 5 year old daughter is already starting down this road as well, likely mimicking my behavior. It got out of hand earlier this year when her anxiety was at its peak and she was so worried about being wrong she apologized for everything, and nothing. Working through her anxiety helped with some of the apologizing and now it’s back to a manageable level. But every time she apologizes unnecessarily it needles me just a bit, a mirror of my own bad example.

3 Justine { 05.31.16 at 8:28 am }

It strikes me that we also use the words “I’m sorry” to empathize with other people… I wonder if that factors into the word count at all?

I think I apologize less than I used to… Not sure why that would be, though.

4 Lori Shandle-Fox { 05.31.16 at 9:27 am }

I don’t think it would work with my blog because I always say: “I’m sorry” when I’m about to say something sarcastic, it’s not an apology. Years ago, when I did stand-up comedy, the owner of the Improv in NYC, Silver Friedman had the reputation of not putting on a lot of female comics at the club. So one day, I asked her why. She said something to the effect of; “I love to showcase women comics. It’s just that guys can get up there with no act and come off like they’re so confident. Most women are much better prepared but look and sound like they’re apologizing to the audience the whole time.”

5 nicoleandmaggie { 05.31.16 at 9:31 am }

I’m not entirely sure that women are doing it wrong. Maybe men need to apologize more.

6 loribeth { 05.31.16 at 9:44 am }

I am a Canadian woman, which must make me the most apologetic creature on earth, lol. (Canadians supposedly have a propensity for saying “Sorry” at the drop of a hat — part of our supposed uber-politeness and national inferiority complex, I suppose.) I’m not sure I did the search correctly, but I came up with 83 posts out of 1,000+. Hmmm….

7 April { 05.31.16 at 11:34 am }

I know I apologize for everything. My husband gets annoyed when I apologize for things which just causes me to apologize again. It’s a cycle I find myself unable to break.

I think that as a woman it’s been ingrained to be apologetic in how we are raised and how we see other women acting. Even when we know something isn’t our fault, we still somehow find a reason that it is or a reason to apologize. I worry about what kind of role model I am for J with my apologies. I want to apologize for not being a less apologetic one. But that kind of defeats the purpose.

8 Lavonne @ the OCD infertile { 05.31.16 at 12:36 pm }

I am definitely apology addicted. I’m usually always the one to back down on my feelings or opinions and apologize just to move on from a situation. It isn’t so much because I don’t like conflict but more because I don’t like others to be sad, or upset, especially because of me. So I usually take the “high road” and just apologize and move on from it.

9 torthúil { 05.31.16 at 5:00 pm }

I try not to say sorry unless I am truly at fault. But, I was curious so I did the search on my blog. Out of 190 published posts, 8 had the word sorry. I skimmed them and 3 of those eight contained an actual apology to readers for some presumed possible offense, one was me quoting myself apologizing to my baby, and the other 4 used sorry in different contexts “a sorry situation” or “I’m not sorry that…..” I found it kind of interesting that I say “I’m not sorry” as often as I say I’m sorry LOL. Anyway, you know your writing best, but perhaps like me not all those “sorries” were actual apologies.

I am all for being polite and accommodating to others. However, there is one case where I detest people saying sorry. I don’t like it when people say “Sorry to disagree with you….” It may be meant to placate or soften the statement, but it has the opposite effect on me because I find it patronizing and that gets my hackles up. I’m less likely to respond in an angry or snarky way to someone who flat out disagrees with me than someone who couches it with “sorry”. (I try not to snap or snark anyway, of course, but flawed human and all). So, don’t apologize for disagreeing with me. I disagree with tons and tons of people and I’m not at all sorry.

10 Ann Zawistoski { 05.31.16 at 5:11 pm }

I found this comic to be extremely on point for me — I absolutely use apologies when I actually mean to be saying “Thank you.” http://www.autostraddle.com/saturday-morning-cartoons-baopu-15-318590/

I think being able to apologize correctly is important, but equally important is being able to express thanks, so I’m trying to really focus on this one.

11 xykademiqz { 05.31.16 at 5:36 pm }

I definitely overapologize. Basically whenever I am asking a question or expressing a disagreement, I first bend over backwards to apologize to the other person. I hate when I do it in a relationship that is supposed to be one of equals (so not hierarchical), because me always apologizing does put me in a subservient position. I hate it about myself. I have strong opinions, but I often feel I am not entitled to them. As a result, I vacillate between but not expressing them in order to avoid confrontation and then being so pissed with myself that I didn’t express them that I end up expressing them anyway, but in a burst-out form that makes the other person think I am nuts and leads to me apologizing…

12 Mali { 05.31.16 at 7:13 pm }

I’m so glad Ann linked to that cartoon, as I saw it just this week and thought about blogging about it. What a difference it would make to how I have felt and feel about myself if I’d grown up saying thank you instead of “I’m sorry” all the time. I really noticed it in my mother in the last ten years of her life. She was always apologising for herself, even for her likes and dislikes. It’s as if we say “sorry” to pre-empt anyone who might jump in and criticise us.

I was pulled up by friends years ago for saying “I’m sorry,” and so it’s something I’ve been actively working on for many years. Trying to survive in male dominated workplaces meant that I had to avoid saying it, or I’d have been completely walked over.

The thing is, I find saying “I’m sorry” when there’s nothing to be sorry about, or the only thing I’m sorry for is that someone else is not being sorry for their actions, can build resentment and makes me feel worse about myself which builds more resentment etc etc. Do any of us want to feel that way? It’s only healthy when we are genuinely sorry, and there is something to apologise for. So like the cartoon says, I’m going to work on saying “Thank you” instead.

13 Mali { 05.31.16 at 7:14 pm }

PS. In over 1000 posts in both my most recent blogs (not my travel ones), I’ve only used “I’m sorry” 10 times. Not bad, eh?

14 md { 06.01.16 at 12:59 am }

thank you for the cartoon link, ann, i loved it! i think i use sorry as an ‘excuse me’ a LOT. or i used to- now that i don’t have so many worldly interactions, it might have gone down a bit. like someone else said, i don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing, and it would be nice if men did it more, but at the same time, it is also good to be more positive, so i am going to take the cartoon to heart and try saying thank you instead!

15 Lori Lavender Luz { 06.01.16 at 4:12 pm }

While I find only 4 cases,in my written blog, I know this is something I really need to pay more attention to in my spoken word. I use it way too often about taking up space. “Oh, sorry,” I’ll say when another person and I try to occupy the same space at the same time. If I were more mindful, I would say, “Oh, excuse me.”

I am more aware when I write. I’d like to choose my words similarly when I speak.

Oh, and what Justine says. I suspect at least half of my written occurrences of “I’m sorry” are from empathy.

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