Years ago I found myself saying ‘sorry’ to everyone for almost everything. At the time I was working for a group of physicians and one of them took me aside one day and asked me why I was so quick to say sorry. He went on to tell me that he had observed how I begin many sentences with sorry or apologize for things that have little or nothing to do with me or my actions. He encouraged me to pay attention and to stop being so quick to use the word. I listened to him, I paid attention and he was so right.
And I changed how I interacted with others. It was an amazing shift for me and I felt stronger, had more self-respect and less stressed out.
By now many of you have probably seen this video by Pantene. It is an ad for their shampoo but it is actually a commentary on the very thing my boss pointed out to me so many years ago. It seems this lesson hasn’t quite been learned yet.
When we are apologizing for something we have no reason to apologize for, then we are offering ourselves as a scapegoat. That is a pretty strong statement and I know from experience how dis-empowering and stressful it can be to always be ready to take the blame, be responsible for something you didn’t do, and to begin many sentences and perhaps relationships with an apology for yourself.
By all means apologize for what you do wrong. Do not become uncivil or obnoxiously rude. Own your emotional wake and be accountable for it.
However, self-respect starts with knowing where you begin in relation to another person, what you have a right to do or say or be, and why you deserve to be treated as an equal in conversations and relationships. Saying sorry all the time does not serve us or our self-respect at all.
And know, like my physician boss, there are people out there who are observing us and are on our side.