I’m sorry. Well, not really.

02/16/2010 at 2:48 pm | Posted in Thinking | 3 Comments

Have you ever noticed that women say “I’m sorry” a lot?  A LOT. And most of the time, it’s unnecessary.

Last weekend at the grocery store, I was standing in the entrance fumbling with my coat and scarf, blocking the door. A woman trying to come in from outside had to sidestep me, and as she slipped by, she said “I’m sorry.” It caught me off guard, seeing how I was the one in her way.

When I went back to the store just the other day, I couldn’t walk past the Girl Scout cookie table without buying a box. Okay, maybe two.

As one of the little girls counted my change, I chatted with the mothers hanging out behind the table. Suddenly she looked up at me nervously and apologized for taking so long. Really? It had been a whole 30 seconds. But already at such a tender age, she’s learning to overuse “I’m sorry.”

How much is too much?

We’re teaching Small Fry to say she’s sorry when she throws stuff at people. I know, weird habit. She doesn’t hit or bite. But man, she’ll sock you in the face with a tennis ball when you least expect it.

Last night she accidentally swiped me with her hand while we were playing on the floor. And she said “sorry Mommy.” I replied that it was no big deal, that it was an accident, but she kept saying it. Over and over again until I diverted her attention elsewhere.

I know this is nothing to worry about. That she’s just learning a new way to communicate and is figuring out how to use that particular phrase in context. But I really, really don’t want “I’m sorry” to be a regular part of her vocabulary. Of course we’ll raise her to be a kind human being who understands when it’s appropriate to tell someone you’re sorry, but I don’t want her to become an over-apologetic woman. Like me.

Why do we say it to freaking often? Is it our innate desire to placate? Or maybe a manifestation of empathy?

I’m going to try to say it less often. Only when it’s really necessary.

And maybe, by my example, Small Fry will be a laid-back Girl Scout who takes her time counting correct change, says “thank you” and goes back to nibbling her Thin Mints happily.


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  1. Man this strikes a chord with me! I say “sorry” way too much. I’m trying to replace it with “excuse me” if it’s a situation like the one you had in the grocery store…but it’s hard to catch myself. I also say “just” a lot. Like, “I’m just writing to say hi.” Why the “just”?! Why not just do it. I’m guessing not too many fellas have this issue! Thanks for the reminder Sis!

  2. Oh my goodness! My mother in law is from England and boy do they say sorry WAY TOO MUCH! It drives me nuts! Sometimes she can say it five times in a row!

    I find myself doing it too, but I am getting better. 🙂

  3. How true is this!!! I say sorry way too much for silly things…even when I’m not really sorry I say it. I guess I say it so much that it’s become a habit.
    PS~Are you going to share those cookies? Pretty please 😉

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