Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Recently, I have become aware of how often I say “Sorry!”. Someone bumps into me in the hallway at school… “I’m sorry!” I forget to respond to a text… “I’m sorry!” I sneeze in the middle of a zoom call… That’s right - “I’m sorry!”
Additionally, I notice myself in various meetings proposing new ideas to a group, and I seem to always end my statements with “I’m not sure, though.”
Then, I noticed… not once has a cis male counterpart ever apologized for bumping into me in the hallway. Not once has a cis male ended an idea with “I’m not sure.”
Over-apologizing directly undermines your authority and makes you seem smaller. Which, obviously explains why you never hear a cis male saying “Sorry!”. Moreover, constantly over-apologizing makes you seem less confident, which can negatively impact your ambitions.
About a month ago, I decided to make a conscious effort to stop apologizing. Once I stopped apologizing, I realized how remarkable it was to be hungry, thirsty, tired, stressed, IMPERFECT. I noticed my emotional battery filling back up, now that I am not draining it with a constant flow of apologies.
AND I noticed something else, too: by using the word “sorry” so often, I’d begun to lose the sense of its real meaning. Sometimes, I genuinely mess up. We all mess up. Apologizing when I genuinely mess up, has a substantially different meaning to me now. Sorry has become a reflex for me. When I genuinely messed up, I frantically fell into the trap of throwing out the same “sorry”, and because these conversations often ended in the reassurance that I’d done nothing wrong, I’d primed myself to expect a quick resolution to every single apology I made. THAT SHOULD NOT BE THE CASE. NOW, because I avoid the word “sorry”, I think about what I did wrong. I have to put into words what I think the problem is, and confirm that the other person feels the same way. Then, I can create a true, sincere, heartfelt apology. (HOW APOLOGIES SHOULD ALWAYS BE.)
17 years of conditioning is hard to overcome. Sometimes a “Sorry!” still slips out. But, slowly, I’m embracing other words or- silence. I’m learning to hold my apologies for when they’re truly needed. IN A CULTURE THAT TEACHES WOMEN TO APOLOGIZE FOR EVERYTHING - WHEN THEY HAVE DONE NO HARM - THIS FEELS LIKE A RADICAL ACT.
So, today I’m going to teach YOU how to STOP APOLOGIZING!
First, a recap on WHY YOU SHOULD STOP APOLOGIZING:
1. DESTROY THE PATRIARCHY! The patriarchy has ingrained the concept of “sorry” into your head.
Make yourself smaller, so men can be bigger! Women should never create tension, thus apologizing diffuses any female-male (power) tension.
YOU don’t need to apologize for not liking someone back… YOU don’t need to apologize for having good ideas… YOU don’t need to apologize for your appearance… YOU don’t need to apologize for not wearing a bra… YOU DON’T NEED TO APOLOGIZE TO DIFFUSE TENSION! This quite literally is a power tactic to maintain cis male dominance.
2. OVER-APOLOGIZING HAS DESTROYED THE TRUE MEANING OF “I’m sorry.”
3. OVER-APOLOGIZING MAKES YOU SEEM LESS CONFIDENT.
HOW TO TAKE YOUR POWER BACK:
1. PRACTICE SELF-AWARENESS.
The first step to solving anything is realizing there is a problem. Truly examine how often you’re saying, typing, etc an apology. In what moments do you apologize the most? Truly analyze your apology habits.
2. CHANGE YOUR VOCABULARY.
Is your essay 3 weeks late? That sounds like an excellent opportunity for a ~real~ apology. However, there are times an apology isn’t necessary! Some examples include: “Sorry, I’m late.” “Sorry, I have a question…” “Sorry, can you repeat that?”
As you become more aware of your apology patterns- try phrases like:
“Thank you for waiting for me.”
“Can you explain XX concept again?” (if they start mansplaining… please make them aware THEY’RE TALKING DOWN TO YOU!!! Ahhh.. the sexist world of Academia… that’s a talk for another time!)
“Excuse me, could you repeat that?”
3. BE INTENTIONAL AND CONFIDENT.
Over-apologizing minimizes yourself, your presence, and your contributions! Be more direct in your communication! If you want something… SAY IT! Being intentional in how you express yourself will help you be seen as a strong leader and authority figure.
One technique that can help is mind priming, an approach developed by Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School. The basic idea is to write about an occasion when you felt especially powerful, happy, or proud. The research shows that by doing this immediately before a meeting or presentation, you will perform—and be perceived as performing—far more effectively than you otherwise would. In one experiment conducted by Galinsky, 60% of those using mind priming techniques were described by at least one teammate as the “leader of the group”—nearly double the rate expected by chance.
I hope you can use these tips to CRUSH THE PATRIARCHY, become more confident, and become more intentional about your communication!
You’re powerful and do not need to become smaller to fit into the patriarchy’s mold.
In the words of R.M. Drake, “Maybe one day we’ll finally learn to STOP APOLOGIZING for the things that make us who we are.”
NOW! GO! DESTROY! THE! PATRIARCHY!
Anna Dean (she/her)
Co-Founder & CEO of LOUDwomen
Bentonville West High School Senior (‘21)