“I am determined to offer an apology with my death.” ~Hideki Tojo
Do you apologize too often? A heartfelt apology can be healing, but even asking for forgiveness can be taken too far – and for survivors of narcissistic abuse, it can become a really bad habit. If you’re apologizing each time you ask to see a menu or bump into a chair, you may need to cut back.
Finding a balance can be tricky. After all, taking responsibility for your actions and making amends shows you have solid character and strengthens your relationships. However, when saying you’re sorry becomes excessive you could be undermining your confidence and annoying your friends.
Learn where to draw the line so you can express remorse without feeling guilty for things that are insignificant or beyond your control.
Use these ideas to become more aware of your behavior and find alternatives to apologizing.
How to Prevent Excessive Apologizing
Has saying you’re sorry become so automatic that you don’t even realize you’re doing it? You’ll need to recognize your patterns, so you can change them.
Try these ideas:
- Slow down. Take a deep breath before you blurt out an apology. Give yourself time to think about what you want to do instead of operating on autopilot.
- Check your motives. You might be trying to gain security or appear agreeable. You might even be pretending to be sorry, so you won’t have to listen to the other person’s point of view. In any case, check to see if you’re really remorseful.
- Change your habits. Maybe there’s something about your lifestyle that you need to confront. Are you often contrite after shopping binges or losing your temper?
- Keep a journal. Writing about your day can help you to notice your triggers and explore your emotions. Jot down what’s happening and how you feel when you apologize needlessly.
- Lighten up. Anxiety can make you prone to apologizing. Find relaxation practices that work for you such as meditation or physical exercise.
- Reach out for help. If you’re not sure if you’re going overboard, ask your friends and family for feedback. They can also support you while you’re trying to change. If you think you need more assistance, you may want to talk with a professional counselor.
What to Do Instead of Apologizing
Now that you’re ready to apologize less, you can experiment with different approaches. You may even find yourself picking up new communication skills.
Try out some of these alternative strategies:
- Express gratitude. Saying thank you is often a more logical alternative to saying you’re sorry. Plus, it will probably make the other person feel better too. For example, thank a salesperson for suggesting an item that’s on sale instead of apologizing for not noticing it yourself.
- Show compassion. Saying you’re sorry about the misfortunes of others can just be a form of expression. However, if it makes you feel guilty for things that are beyond your control, you may want to phrase it differently.
- Be direct. Ask a question without apologizing first. It’s reasonable for you to clarify the details of an assignment at work or check the directions to a party. You’ll get the answers in less time, and you may be treated with more respect.
- Accept yourself. Maybe you wish you had curly hair or a deeper voice. If you can learn to laugh at your more unusual qualities or just feel comfortable with them, you’ll feel less need to make excuses for them.
- Assert your needs. The biggest downside to excessive apologizing is that it may reinforce the idea that you’re unworthy of love and respect. Build up your confidence with positive affirmations and worthwhile achievements so you can be comfortable and competent at advocating for yourself.
Save your apologies for the times when you’re sincerely remorseful and have done something that you need to make amends for. You’ll feel more confident about yourself, and your words will be more meaningful.
And, as Henry Kissinger said, “Accept everything about yourself – I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end – no apologies, no regrets.”