It constantly amazes me how often people unnecessarily say the word “sorry“, using it as a generic filler. You bump into someone accidentally in a corridor: “Oh, I’m sorry…“. You need to get someone’s attention: “Hey, sorry but can I just…“. You have to squeeze past someone on a crowded train: “Sorry, please can I…“.
Here’s a great video from BuzzFeed demonstrating what I’m talking about. Do you recognise yourself in any of the examples?
So, “Why is this a problem?” you might ask. “Saying sorry is just being polite.” you might say.
For me, this is all about the power of language and words. The words we say have a huge impact on who we are, how we think and develop and, perhaps most importantly, how we feel about ourselves. They define us.
Some fascinating cultural examples include:
- Germany’s extreme debt aversion is rooted in the German language itself (BBC)
- Indigenous Australians have a different sense of space – all because of the language they speak (Japan Today)
- Russian speakers discriminate between light and dark blues differently from their English-speaking counterparts (New Scientist)
So, what has this got to do with saying “sorry“? Of course you need to apologise when you do something wrong, but constant and unnecessary apologies for things that don’t warrant an apology has a negative impact, undermining your confidence and sense of well being. Making you less happy.
It may seem like a small thing, but it’s not good for you.
If this is you, stop. If you see others doing this, tell them to stop – tell them “you don’t need to apologise“.
To do this, a very simple and easy to develop habit way in my experience is simply to say “Excuse me“, rather than “Sorry“. You accidentally bump into someone: “Excuse me“. You want to get someones attention: “Excuse me“. You spill a drink by accident: “Excuse me”.
MAKE A POSITIVE CHANGE
Say “Excuse me” rather than using an unnecessary “Sorry”
Try it out. If you catch yourself about to apologise, switch it to “excuse me“. It has helped me – maybe it will help you.