Last month I talked about how we can be more aware of how we talk to ourselves and how to be kinder and more compassionate with the words we choose.  This month I thought I’d look into how we speak to others and in particular how often we apologise for things that maybe we don’t need to say sorry for.  

When we have done something wrong it is only natural to apologise and say that we are sorry (you would hope).  However in the words of Elton John ‘Sorry seems to be the hardest word” for some people.

But have you ever noticed that although it can be hard to sometimes admit we are at fault over something and apologise (it can take a lot of courage to say we are in the wrong), when we actually haven’t really done anything wrong we apologise ALL THE TIME? 

How many times have you found yourself saying this: 

I’m sorry for bumping into you.  I’m sorry for bothering you.  I’m sorry for asking for help.  I’m sorry, could you turn your music down?  I’m sorry, could you move your car?  I’m sorry, but you’ve given me the wrong order. 

Perhaps you are saying sorry out of habit or because you feel it’s just a precursor to being polite, often people don’t even notice themselves even saying it.


Saying sorry is sometimes a quick and easy way to get out of an argument or situation, and people who are afraid of confrontation may say sorry to avoid any conflict. We are happier to accept responsibility rather than addressing the actual issue. 

We may lack the confidence to stand up for ourselves in certain situations.  Perhaps as a child we may have felt that we weren’t good enough, or got into trouble if we made mistakes, so as an adult we assume we must be in the wrong and the other person is correct. 

Being kind and thoughtful towards others is a good characteristic to have, but always apologising to make someone feel better, or so that person will like us, or so we don’t cause offence isn’t all that healthy.  It’s far better to stand by our values and realise that we can’t always please or agree with everyone. 

Maybe our behaviour needs excusing on a constant basis, and we always apologise after the event.  Some people can feel that saying sorry is enough, but if we are constantly having to apologise for our behaviour and not changing what we do, there may be some work we need to do to on ourselves.  After a while saying sorry isn’t enough to excuse bad behaviour. 

On a positive note, many of us are able to own the situation, take full responsibility, apologise, learn from it and move on.  


Situation: Running Late
Instead of saying: “I’m sorry I’m late.”
Say: “Thank you so much for waiting; I really appreciate your patience.”

Situation: Expressing an Opinion
Instead of saying: “I’m sorry, but I disagree.”
Say: “I understand what you are saying, but I see things a little bit differently.”

Situation: Turning Down an Invitation
Instead of saying: “I’m sorry, I can’t make it.”
Say: “Thank you for inviting me, but I’m not free on that date.”

Situation: Asking for Help
Instead of saying: “I’m sorry to bother you, but can you help me?”
Say: “I’d really appreciate your input; could you help me with this?”

Situation: Declining a Request
Instead of saying: “I’m sorry, I can’t do it.”
Say: “Thank you for thinking of me; unfortunately, I’m not available.”

Situation: Expressing Emotions
Instead of saying: “I’m sorry for being so emotional.”
Say: “Thank you for listening; it really helps me to share my feelings.”

Situation: Addressing a Mistake
Instead of saying: “I’m sorry for the error.”
Say: “Thank you for pointing that out; I’ve corrected it now.”

Situation: Disagreeing in a Discussion
Instead of saying: “I’m sorry, but I think you’re mistaken.”
Say: “I appreciate your viewpoint; can we explore that a little bit more.”

Situation: Offering Different Ideas
Instead of saying: “I’m sorry if this is a bad idea.”
Say: “I have an idea; can I run it by you.”

Situation: Setting Boundaries
Instead of saying: “I’m sorry, but I can’t do that for you.”
Say: “I’d love to help, but this time around I won’t be able to.”

When we replace unnecessary apologies with expressions of gratitude and understanding it not only boosts our own self-esteem but it can also nurture and develop healthier relationships.

Remember before you apologise, ask yourself ‘Am I in the wrong here?’ If you didn’t do anything to warrant an apology, then don’t say sorry. And finally, back to those ones from the beginning:

I’m sorry for bumping into you.
I’m sorry for bothering you.
I’m sorry for asking for help.  
I’m sorry, could you turn your music down?  
I’m sorry, could you move your car?  
I’m sorry, but you’ve given me the wrong order. 

How would you say them now…?

Pin It on Pinterest