I’m not sorry that I’m sorry

I’ve heard it over three dozen times: women apologize too much.

After listening to a podcast that re-emphasized that yes, women apologize too much, I’d like to counter that with:

I’m sorry, but so what?

Women tend to behave apologetically for the following reasons:

  • Saving face for someone else
  • Building relationships
  • Smoothing over rough bumps
  • Trying to be less in-your-face

And on paper, this sounds, well, weak. But in person? Honestly, it makes things easier.

Think about it: when was the last time someone gave you blunt, tactless feedback that made you feel warm and fuzzy inside and incited and inspired change? Or, turning it inward, when was the last time YOU gave yourself harsh feedback that really inspired change?

Self-flagellation is a concept I’m too familiar with – and honestly, that’s not what makes me do better. Telling me that the way I speak is problematic doesn’t help. This article said it best:

The research points to the idea that the disparity arises not from the fact that women are socialized to apologize “too often,” but from the fact that men are not socialized to apologize at all.

Women shouldn’t have to apologize less – everyone should apologize more.

Here’s another thing – apologizing can be utilized in deescalation. Austin and I were driving in an underground parking lot when another car almost ran into us. Austin rolled down the window, waved and called out, “Sorry!” and the driver went forward.

“Why did you say sorry?” I asked him. “It’s not your fault – that person almost hit us!”

“It disarms them,” Austin said. “They don’t get mad, and we can keep going.”

The idea of apologizing when it’s not your fault is a tough pill to swallow. After all, where is justice? That’s not fair – I didn’t make this mess, that person should clean it up.

But we don’t live in that world. It’s age-old wisdom that life isn’t fair. Sometimes it’s better to stop worrying about whose fault it is and start focusing on how to solve that problem.

And I’m not promoting the idea that people should always step aside and become welcome mats for the jerks of the world. Oh, hell no. I’ve had to learn how to get out of toxic and unsupportive environments and interactions. It’s never okay to let people walk all over you.

I’ll do my best to be as assertive in the workplace as I can, and I’ll try to discern when I’m stepping on toes versus when I’m standing up for myself. It’s a long process, and I’m definitely still growing – but I’m also going to keep trying to understand the other person and recognize that their perspective is just as valid as mine.

In short, I’ll keep apologizing. And I’m not sorry.

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