This following article is a guest post from a friend and kick ass woman, Mara Pennell. I also highly encourage you to read this post from Mara that I shared on Facebook yesterday. It’s well worth the read.
It seems that there is something ingrained in female DNA that causes them to be highly apologetic about, well, everything. All. The. Time. I am pretty sure the lack of the “Y” chromosome does not, alone, cause us to be useless screw-ups. So why the incessant apologizing? Lack of confidence? Most likely.
Those who work in an office environment have a first row seat to this apology epidemic. People are apologizing for everything. They are sorry that they didn’t remember to hold the door. They are sorry that they are waiting behind you at the coffee pot. They are sorry the copier is out of paper. The words “I’m sorry” have become as commonplace as saying “good morning” or “hello.”
I answered my phone the other day and the conversation went like this:
“Good morning, Barbara.”
“Good morning, Mara. I am so sorry to bother you. I just had a quick question.”
Really? You are sorry that you are calling me? You know I am at work, right? I am physically sitting at my desk? You have called to ask me a question about said work? What are you sorry about again?
Consult with Webster’s and you will see an apology defined as “a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure.” Can it be that we are that regretful about seemingly insignificant things? If someone happens to be blocking the aisle in the grocery store with their gigantic cart full of groceries and they are completely oblivious to their surroundings, I may choose to gently push their cart aside so I can get by. Does this require an apology? Is this so offensive that I must mutter a harried “I am sorry,” as I scoot past to grab my canned peas?
No. We are not that regretful. It is more likely that we lack confidence in ourselves and we simply do not know what else to say. We then fill that void with a meaningless “I am sorry.” It would be simply too uncomfortable to say, “please don’t be irritated with me that I dared to touch your grocery cart, since you were too absorbed in selecting a salad dressing to notice what was going on around you.” Yeah, awkward. Agreed.
Although all this over apologizing may seem harmless or even a nicety that we have come to accept, it is actually highly degrading. It is degrading to ourselves. It erodes others confidence in us. It erodes our confidence in ourselves.
Maybe equally important is that it is degrading to apologies in general. A real, true authentic apology is really the only acceptable kind. If we have committed an offense or failed one another in some way, by all means, a genuine apology is in order.
Next time you are tempted to mutter a meaningless, useless “I’m sorry” stop and think about what it is you are sorry for. Then think about what it is you really wanted to say. Think about maybe saying that instead. You might be surprised how empowering it is.
Mara K. Pennell spends her days raising little humans and in her spare time she provides leadership and innovative solutions for the growing membership at Midcoast Federal Credit Union as the Senior Vice President of Retail Services. Mara is not currently an active blogger but is fond of using fragments. You can follow her on twitter for occasional strikes of inspiration in 140 characters or less.