How to stop saying ‘I’m sorry’ all the time — and what to say instead

When you’re starting out with martial arts, you may still need a bit of a confidence boost. For me personally, my biggest bad habit is apologizing for EVERYTHING. I look at you in the grocery store “sorry!” Legally pass you in the passing lane “Sorry!!!!” even though you can’t hear me! And the list goes on, it’s so bad.

Do you have a tendency of over-apologizing? Are you the sort of person who blurts “sorry!” when someone collides with you in the street? Even when it’s entirely their fault?

For example, do you apologize for making a perfectly reasonable request at a restaurant? Or seek forgiveness for unpleasant circumstances beyond your control?

If those scenarios sound uncomfortably familiar to you, you’re not alone. Saying sorry too much is a common problem (especially among women). However, over apologizing all the time could mean you’re essentially saying sorry for your existence. Over time this undermines your self-worth.

If you say ‘I’m sorry, but…” more often than you should, try these tactics to kick the habit. (There’s even an app for that.) Using these suggestions can give you that confidence boost you need to give your martial arts all you’ve got!

Common Traits of People Saying Sorry Too Much

While “sorry syndrome” is a pervasive issue that is experienced by all sorts of people, there are certain common traits that overlap with this tendency. In particular:

  • Compassion. People who care a lot about the feelings and preferences of others often find themselves over apologizing when they’ve done nothing wrong.
  • Submissiveness in relationships. Those who are prone to saying sorry too much in a relationship often give their partner the message that they feel it’s wrong to have their own personal boundaries or needs.
  • Agreeability. If you care a lot about keeping the peace and preventing conflict, you’re likely to say sorry more than is necessary. After all, you’d rather give an unneeded apology than end up in a fight.
  • Lack of faith in one’s own judgment. When you’re never quite confident that what you’re doing or saying is right, you can be quick to apologize and simply assume you’re in the wrong.
  • Strict background. Whether you were raised in a strict schooling environment or by particularly authoritarian parents, spending your childhood in fear of discipline can make you trigger-happy with apologies.
  • Anxiety. Living with an underlying sense of impending doom can lead you to be ultra-sensitive to the idea of situations or relationships going awry, which in turn can spark a disproportionate amount of apologies.

5 Ways To Stop Saying Sorry Too Much

While apologizing can be a powerful tool for building trust and improving social cohesion, it’s vital to be able to assert yourself and view yourself as having the right to make your way in the world.

If you’re constantly apologizing, you send the signal to the Universe that you are meek, unsure and undeserving. An unnecessary “sorry” has huge potential to undermine your manifestation power. Therefore, it pays to cut back. But how can you do this?

1. Pause Before Apologizing

Before saying sorry, stop and ask yourself this: “Have I actually done anything wrong here?”. If the answer is no, do not apologize! The urge can be easier to resist if you ask this follow-up question: “If I didn’t do something wrong here, do I really want people to think I believe that I did?”

2. Express Compassion Differently

If you worry about sharing difficult emotions, note that there are other ways to show compassion and empathy. Instead of constantly apologizing in a relationship, say something like “I know that’s tough to hear” or “You can always tell me when you’re upset.”

3. Know Your Triggers

Do a quick brainstorming session and write down 10 things that make you want to apologize. For example, bumping into a stranger or asking someone to do something for you. For each item, think of something you could say instead. Spend a week focusing on just one, trying to entirely eliminate “sorry” from that context.

4. Phrase Questions Carefully

There’s no need to over-apologize when you need clarification, so don’t say sorry when you ask. Instead, experiment with questions like “Could you please say a bit more about that for me?” or “Can you please help me understand this better, maybe by using an example?”

5. Turn Apologies Into Gratitude

The next time you feel an apology rising up inside you, think of a way to rephrase it into a statement of gratitude. For example, “I’m sorry you had to run that errand” can easily become “I’m so grateful you did me this favor!”. Not only is this more pleasing to the hearer, but it focuses your mind on positivity and abundance. This can help you attract even more positivity.

Other Ways to Flip the Script

Instead of saying “I’m sorry,” say:

  • “excuse me.”
  • “pardon me”
  • “go ahead”
  • “after you”
  • “your turn”

Instead of saying “sorry to interrupt you,” say:

  • “ I’d like to add…”
  • “I have an idea….”
  • “I’d like to expand on that…”

Instead of saying “sorry to complain,” switch it to:

  • “Thank you for listening…”

Instead of apologizing in an email, consider saying:

  • “Thank you for catching that….”
  • “I appreciate you bringing this error to my attention….”
  • “Thanks for flagging this issue for me…”

If you’re running a little late, instead of saying sorry, consider:

  • “Thank you for waiting for me…”

Whatever your reason for developing this habit, like with any habit, you can nip it in the bud with a little effort. There’s even a plug-in for that; a Google Chrome plug-in called “Just Not Sorry” to alert you to words that undermine your message in emails.

Jolene Rheault

Jolene works as a marketing professional but full-time as a mom. She lives in Highlands Ranch, CO with her 7-year-old son, husband, 2 cats, and a bearded dragon named Jerry.

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