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Life Hack: Only Apologize When You’re Actually Sorry

Apologizing too much can make the words "I'm sorry" virtually meaningless. Tenor

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It’s important to be polite, but if you overdo it you might actually be working against your own best interests. That’s what some communication and business experts are advising amid a trend of over-apologizing.

When to save the apologies

If we genuinely mess up or drop the ball, it might be appropriate and advisable to own it and offer a sincere “I’m sorry” to the relevant person or group. Too often, however, well-intentioned folks are too quick to apologize for issues that weren’t their fault.

When someone cuts you off in line at the supermarket or takes something you said out of context or complains that you didn’t return a phone call soon enough even though you were busy doing something else, there’s really no reason to offer an apology.

In fact, those who insist on saying they’re sorry in such situations could be limiting their own power and authority, argues author Jeffrey Pfeffer. He even goes so far as to suggest refraining from apologies even when you’re in the wrong.

That might be a bit too extreme for some of you, and that’s fine. The bottom line, though, is that you shouldn’t be apologizing for every little inconvenience that someone else experiences.

How to break the habit

After reading the section above, you might have realized that you’ve been throwing around apologies a bit too liberally.

Many of us have fallen into this trap, but the habit can be broken with a little practice avoiding unnecessary contrition.

Try taking the onus off of yourself and preemptively thank the other person for his or her flexibility instead of sending the message that a delay or complication was your fault. Performing a quick review of conversations before responding will help you determine whether an apology is appropriate or superfluous.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee December 13th, 2022
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