I have one terrible character trait: I am too polite. On the surface this may seem like a good thing, but it really is a curse, just like Ella Enchanted’s gift of obedience.
My politeness extends beyond being kind and saying Please and Thank You. It has morphed into a complete reluctance to inconvenience people and a predisposition to say sorry way too often. When I want or need something, I don’t just come out and ask for it. I preface every request with an apology and even as I ask the question I embed an escape route in it. I ask for the favour while basically telling the person it is okay to say no.
Oh I’m sorry to bother you but do you mind…it is okay if you can’t but…
Why can’t I just say “Please can you do x for me?”
I especially hate when someone asks me to tell someone else to do some work. I get so nervous. A friend of the family was travelling out and my mum gave her some things to give to my sister. The day before her flight, my mother realised she had forgotten an item she wanted to send and she told me to tell her to stop by the house on her way from work. I was so annoyed that my mum was making me do this. I reluctantly called her. In the middle of my rigmarole, she figured out what I wanted and said “Okay I’ll stop by the house on my way from work.” She was not upset or bothered. Even if she had been unable to do it, the earth would still have continued rotating.
I do not know what I am so afraid of. The worst the person can do is say no. I have sometimes taken on more work because I did not want to inconvenience another person.
Other people do not seem to have this problem. While I spend a few seconds softening the ground, they breeze in and say “Can you please help me with this?” or in some cases “I need this.” They ask directly, without any unnecessary prologue. Sometimes I get a little miffed at their brazenness, how did they get so bold? I have since realised that their way is the correct way.
I listened to myself and realised we say sorry way too often.
Excuse me please, oh sorry, do you mind…
Sorry please excuse me can I have a …
Sorry, I ordered beef not chicken
Okay sorry thank you
Sorry can I ask a question?
Sorry did you just spit in my soup? (Just kidding, but you get the gist)
When a creep follows me around asking for my number, instead of saying a firm “No” I say “umm sorry…” and stutter nervously. When someone interrupts me: “Umm sorry, I was still talking.” and that is the mean way of saying it. A simple “I was still talking”
or “Do you want to take this outside asshole?” will suffice. Sorry has become one of those irritating filler words: Erm, umm, like, you know.
I must sound like a simpering wimp. What is it I am sorry for?
I also say thank you too much. When the waitress arrives with my food, I say thank you. As she puts the food in front of me, I say thank you. As she is about to leave I say thank you. Weird.
I did not realise how pervasive this “sorry” issue was until I saw the video below. I felt like clapping my hands together like a crazed seal. Apparently women tend to apologise unnecessarily. I have not carried out or read any empirical studies on this issue so I cannot say with accuracy if women do say sorry more than men, but it is quite plausible.
Of course the comment section is filled with people who have completely misunderstood the point and are now on a rampage against feminism.
This article attempts to explain why women say sorry too often and the consequences saying sorry may have.
Any sign of strength can be off-putting, so they’re conditioned to soften communication that can be construed as assertive or aggressive.
Apologising unnecessarily puts women in a subservient position and makes people lose respect for them.
Sometimes it is okay to inconvenience people a little. Sometimes people need to be inconvenienced and we should not be afraid to do so. Sometimes it is all in my head and the person is not really being inconvenienced. Saying sorry so much in a bid to be polite has the adverse result of making you out to seem weak and feeble. It also reduces the power of the word, so that when you are actually sorry for something you have done, It does not seem sincere.
My challenge now is to be bold(er), to ask for what I want without wasting time. I will stop apologising for things that are beyond my control, things that are not my fault. I will not start every chat or email or text with “I’m sorry…” I will not feel guilty for asking for a favour.
Some tips on how to avoid saying sorry excessively:
Try silence: Just as with filler words “Erm” and “umm”, if you feel yourself about to say sorry, pause instead.
Use another word or phrase: This article outlines some things you can say instead of sorry.
Just get rid of the sorry. If it is not needed, your message will still be made without you sounding so wimpy.
This applies to every one, man or woman.
Of course I will still say sorry when I am in the wrong and I will still be polite. What I am not going to do is to repeat sorry like an parrot suffering from temporary amnesia.
What are your thoughts concerning this? Are you guilty of this? Do you think it is an insignificant topic and everyone should stop making a big deal of it? Let me know!