I had a lovely discussion with a coaching friend yesterday on the utility of saying sorry.
It’s something I’ve been trying to work on lately—my tendency to apologize when it’s not necessary.
I always laugh when someone says sorry at the grocery store when I almost run into them. I’ll think, You literally didn’t do anything wrong. Why are you sorry?
And yet I do the same thing when it comes to coordination or business chats. What scares me is not how much I apologize or qualify myself…what scares me is that I don’t even realize when I’m doing it.
In the past month, four people have told me to stand up for myself and stop saying sorry. Whoa.
But at the same time, I like that I’m always willing to apologize to friends—sacrificing my pride for the possible harmony of a situation. I care about my friends’ feelings. Sue me.
The debate at play is:
What’s the difference between kindness and people pleasing?
In other words: When do people appreciate an apology and when do they genuinely not give a shit?
What I’m learning is…most of the time, they don’t give a shit. If we are unapologetically ourselves, if we come from a good place, and if we’re willing to learn from our mistakes…then saying sorry is almost never needed.
It can actually be pretty annoying.
Hence the problem with people pleasing: It has the opposite effect; no one is pleased.
Does anyone really appreciate the paragraphs of text explaining why someone has to cancel plans this weekend? Does a fourth apology in five minutes actually carry weight? Do we respect when someone is hyper-focused on not hurting our feelings?
I would be willing to bet the answer to all these is no.
People are generally okay with us living our lives. And if there’s an issue, a good friend would be open and honest with us and address what’s going on.
Obviously, I’m not saying we should throw away our self-awareness. But I do believe that walking around on eggshells doesn’t help anybody. We can trust that people are adults. Everything hurts someone’s feelings. All we can do is roll with the punches and handle each situation with openness, love, and good faith.
If you disagree, I’m sorry.