When You Shouldn’t Say Sorry

Over-apologizing can have a serious negative affect on how you’re perceived. Saying sorry too often, or when it isn’t your fault, can make you seem meek and unconfident. By limiting the use of your apology to when it’s truly necessary, you can be a more respectable figure.

Over-apologizing also makes “sorry” sound less sincere when you need it to be. If someone is always hearing you apologize, they won’t believe it’s as genuine when you really mean it.

These are six instances when you shouldn’t say sorry.

1. Someone Else Did Something Offensive

Maybe a friend or a family member made a tasteless joke that hurt someone’s feelings. It can feel natural to express your empathy by saying you’re sorry to the offended party, but this actually isn’t the best thing you can do.

Saying sorry for someone else’s actions is equal to taking the blame for them. Why would you want to take the blame for an offensive joke? It is the offender’s responsibility to apologize for their wrong, not yours.

What to say instead: Your best options are to tell the person who committed the wrong, assertively, “Hey, that wasn’t a kind thing to say.” You can also tell the victim you do not condone the other person’s behavior or that you think it was wrong.

2. You didn’t do it

Making an apology to someone for something you didn’t do is the easy way to resolve a misunderstanding. However, it’s not always the best thing to do for yourself.

By apologizing for something you didn’t do, you are admitting to causing an issue you didn’t cause. The other party may truly believe you wronged them for a very long time. Once you admit to doing it by apologizing you can’t take it back. Think very carefully about whether you’re okay with having permanent responsibility for this act before taking the easy way out.

What to say instead: “This honestly has no relation to me, but I hope you are able to resolve this conflict.”

3. Something is out of your control

Accept everything about yourself – I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end – no apologies, no regrets.

Henry Kissinger

An example of this would be apologizing when someone else bumps into you, or apologizing for your appearance. “Sorry, I look a mess today because I don’t feel well.” You don’t owe anyone a pretty picture, and you don’t need to dissipate into thin air for them to get through. Sorry is NOT necessary.

What to say instead: Nothing. It’s not in your control.

4. When you have negative feelings

This ties in with things you can’t control. It’s not your fault when you have natural emotional reactions. Don’t apologize for overreacting, or being dramatic, because you honestly can’t control your feelings and this gives others permission to assign a negative trait to you.

If you wouldn’t apologize for your shoe size, don’t apologize for your feelings. They are equally impossible to control.

What to say instead: You can talk about your feelings, or keep them to yourself and say nothing. Just don’t apologize.

5. When you’re receiving criticism

One of the best things I ever did was learn to stop apologizing for criticism. If a coworker catches a mistake of yours at work, don’t respond with an apology. Your actions didn’t hurt your coworker. Instead, it’s important to respond in a way that shows you received the critique and you appreciate the direction. Your coworkers typically are only trying to help you improve at your job, if they wanted to sabotage you they’d let you keep making mistakes.

What to say instead: “Thank you for catching that, I appreciate your reminders.”

6. For leaving a situation

When something makes you uncomfortable, your focus should be leaving the situation, not being polite. Although politeness has been touted as the most important thing, it’s not. Especially for women.

“Sorry, but I really need to go…” can give someone an opening to guilt you into staying around for malicious reasons. If they see that you’re afraid of being impolite, they will abuse your kindness.

What to say instead: “I’m leaving now,” and nothing else.

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