Have You Got a Sorry Habit?

Does being in the company of some people turn you into an over apologiser? By which I mean do you find yourself prefacing your sentences with ‘I’m sorry…’ or continually asking forgiveness for irrelevant things? Has saying ‘sorry‘ become a habit?

This topic came up in a recent coaching session. Further exploration revealed that being with particular people made my client anxious and when she felt anxious she began over apologising. And when she over apologised she put herself in an inferior position to the person she was with. And that made her feel more anxious so she…..you get the idea!

In this case the apologising had almost become reflexive; as soon as the feeling of anxiety kicked in she began apologising, began starting her sentences with ‘I’m sorry’ or apologising for things nothing to do with her, for example slow service in a cafe. The underlying reason was lack of confidence, which we addressed, but first she had to break the S word habit.


If you find yourself in this position take a moment to work out what your underlying feelings are.  Pause and say to yourself “What am I actually feeling now”. Anxiety may be part of it, lack of confidence, inferiority feelings and so on. Once you identify the core reason you can take some steps to deal with it.


Breaking a habit succeeds best if you replace the old behaviour with something else. If you have  a habit of starting sentences with ‘I’m sorry’ when you mean ‘I want to interrupt’ try saying, ‘May I interrupt for a moment’. Be literal. Or you could try beginning by using the person’s name instead of the S word.

Over use of the word sorry is very common with women. I hear it often on my training courses and sometimes it sounds as if the woman is apologising for having a point of view to express. It devalues what follows it, detracts from the authority of your words. Banish it.

And if an apology is genuinely appropriate, try and find another way of offering it. You don’t need to banish the S word forever, just while you are in sorry therapy!


Posted on October 9th, 2010 by

One Response to “Have You Got a Sorry Habit?”

  1. This is so true, Jane! I see it so often and most commonly it’s the prefix to an alternative point of view. For example, “I’m sorry but I disagree”. Disagreeing isn’t something to apologise for, it’s an opportunity to discuss and learn! To this end, I prefer something along the lines of “That’s interesting, here’s what I think about it”.
    I think your “Sorry Therapy” idea’s great.

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