Last week I was at the beach, playing Smashball. It was windy and we had a tough go of actually getting the ball back and forth to each other. I found myself saying "I'm sorry," or "Sorry about that" after every hit. My playing partner, who was a man didn't ever say sorry once for a ball that didn't quite reach me. He didn't need to. What bothered me was hearing myself apologizing to an annoying extent and I realized that this is something that is a bit of a bad habit. Over apologizing fo things that I have no control over.
I think many women do this. We say sorry many times a day when we almost bump into people in tight spaces or on blind turns in stores, on sidewalks, etc. We find a million things to apologize for that really don't require an apology. I have had several situations lately where people have apologized to me on sidewalks, in stores, etc. where no apology was necessary. They didn't do anything wrong.
This happens often when my kiddo is not paying attention and bumps into people or when she's standing in the middle of someone else's way. The other party, trying to pass but having a hard time of it often apologizes to me. I always reply with an automatized "No problem," or "No worries." but really they certainly need not apologize for my child causing them to have to step out of her way.
Appropriately placed apologies are an important if we are going to have peace and relationships in life. But getting into the habit of saying sorry for things that don't matter or really aren't our fault seems a little useless and silly. I think when women over-apologize for things, particularly around men, it also weakens their position, competency and leadership ability.
This article by Meredith LaPore speaks to that exact issue. I love the suggestion she gives to rephrase the sentiment rather than saying "I'm sorry." Genius! There is also some great insight into how men and women view and use apology differently and it's not because guys don't feel remorse.
Here is another great story, from Salon, by Kylah Goodfellow Klinge about the social use and meanings of "I'm sorry." It's such an interesting topic!
Anyway, after hearing myself say "I'm sorry" a ridiculous number of times while playing ball with a boy I decided I am going to start using that phrase with more meaning, intention and thought. I don't have to apologize for everything that is imperfect in the world. I certainly don't have to point out that I'm not the world's greatest Smashball player by apologizing EVERY time I swing my paddle. This is my year to quite being an "over-apologizer."
* Now Is My Time is an initiative I set for myself for 2014. Each week I've written about goals and plans I'm making this year to put myself and self-care at the forefront of my life. You can learn more here.