046: Stop Apologizing

In Communication, Podcast by Robert KandellLeave a Comment

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Welcome back to Tuff Love with Rob Kandell. This week’s show is on the concept of over-apologizing and how it’s endemic and systemic in today’s society. We feel we must apologize to create a bridge or to avoid intimacy. It happens time and time again and it pisses Rob off. This show is about the motivations, thoughts, practices, places not to over apologize. Rob explores where to go underneath to find out what you truly want to say and the need to use deliberate language, like ‘thank you’ instead of ‘I’m sorry,’ or ‘I have a different viewpoint.’

How annoying is it when someone is apologizing and you don’t know what they’re apologizing for? They didn’t do anything wrong. Are they apologizing for being human? For not being human? For living life?

It doesn’t make any sense. We often do things that are human, and then we apologize. Stop doing it! You don’t need to apologize for being human. This life is a life of improvisation. Does anyone in the world really know what they’re doing? We act like we know and we expect others to know but really we’re building a bridge to nowhere. We are improvising, making this shit up as we go along. So stop apologizing for being human.

What you should really be apologizing for is staying home under you blanket whining and crying rather than being out and being human. Get off your ass, go forth, make some “mistakes” and then decide if you should apologize or not. And more often than not, you shouldn’t. This is just a really bad habit that’s been ingrained into our psyche and it creates disconnection from people. Rob’s true love in life is creating connection and helping us avoid the bullshit that we do to avoid connection.

Rob consulted The Google and found a study (https://web.stanford.edu/~omidf/KarinaSchumann/KarinaSchumann_Home/Publications_files/Schumann.PsychScience.2010.pdf) that was done in 2010 about the stereotypes of women apologizing more than men. Rob was really interested when he read this because it wasn’t what he expected. It’s not that women are apologizing more than men, women just think they’re doing things wrong in this world more than men think they do things wrong.

Abstract of the study:

Despite wide acceptance of the stereotype that women apologize more readily than men, there is little systematic evidence to support this stereotype or its supposed bases (e.g., men’s fragile egos). We designed two studies to examine whether gender differences in apology behavior exist and, if so, why. In Study 1, participants reported in daily diaries all offenses they committed or experienced and whether an apology had been offered. Women reported offering more apologies than men, but they also reported committing more offenses. There was no gender difference in the proportion of offenses that prompted apologies. This finding suggests that men apologize less frequently than women because they have a higher threshold for what constitutes offensive behavior. In Study 2, we tested this threshold hypothesis by asking participants to evaluate both imaginary and recalled offenses. As predicted, men rated the offenses as less severe than women did. These different ratings of severity predicted both judgments of whether an apology was deserved and actual apology behavior.

Here’s what Rob thinks we can learn from this:

  • Firstly, what’s your motivation for apologizing? This is the most important of all. Look at why you’re apologizing. Rob thinks in some cases when you know you miscued and you’re off the mark, for sure it’s important to apologize. But that’s a small percent.
  • The other reasons are important. One motivation Rob thinks is that people apologize to avoid intimacy. We’re apologizing for being human, and it’s a subtle way to say ‘please don’t hit me, I’ll self-flagellate me first, don’t waste your time on me, I’m going to go now.’ It’s an opportunity to avoid intimacy.
  • On some level, it’s also a way to pass the buck. To pass the uncomfortable, charged buck, that feeling of not being totally available. ‘I did something that makes me feel uncomfortable. I’m therefore going to apologize to you, therefore the responsibility for the uncomfortableness is no longer for me, it’s now passed to you.’ Hot potato. I don’t want to feel this uncomfortable thing. I’ll apologize so you need to handle it.
  • Another motivation is to fill gaps, fill the silence. It’s a way to build a bridge, to not feel uncomfortable in that silence.
  • We apologize for what we’re insecure about. Look at your motivations here. I want more of your attention and feel insecure about asking for it. So what we do is apologize ‘I’m so sorry that I want you to look at me and talk to me rather than look at your phone while we eat dinner
  • We apologize for worrying about offending the other person or calling them on their bullshit. We do not hold deep that surety of who we are, and in doing so we don’t face that challenge.
  • There’s a great video about how women put themselves down. Morgan thinks it’s a self-worth thing, or lack thereof. We belittle their self-worth in apology as like a bow to the other person, “yes master:” to shrink our power, to get in and not feel the full force of who we are. Stop diminishing yourself.
  • What you have to say is really important and could change someone’s life and your inability to really face it and look at it is a detriment to everyone. It’s a way that we’re not fully connected to who we are.

Rob found an article in Psychology Today called 18 things that we should stop apologizing for www.huffingtonpost.com/deborah-stachelski/18-things-you-should-stop-apologizing-for . Here are his favorite points:

  • Stop apologizing for saying no to going out with a friend. You have choice. You’re right as a human being to say ‘this is how I want to spend my time and energy’ and in doing so it’s actually a good thing to do.
  • Stop apologizing for your feelings. You are a human being. These feelings are inside you for a reason. Feelings are arising because they’re supposed to. You apologizing for them blocks them from knowing who you are and the vast humanness of knowing who you are. Also diminishes you, you tell your body that your feelings aren’t right.
  • Stop saying you’re sorry for taking a nap in the middle of the day. If you’re tired, take a nap. You’re an adult. Nap time is fun. And it might help you, make you more able to work or take care of the kids or your partner. BE good to yourself.
  • Stop saying sorry for doing things alone. Rob loves going to the movies by himself. Stop saying you’re sorry for doing things by yourself, especially things that you want that other people either don’t want to do or aren’t available to do.
  • Stop saying you’re sorry when others around you are unhappy. This one is for the codependent caretakers out there. It’s not your responsibility when they’re unhappy. You don’t control their mind, it’s their responsibility. If you have provided a stimuli or were careless, then apologize about that thing. But their feelings are not your responsibility.
  • Stop saying you’re sorry for changing your mind. You are allowed to change your mind. You’re an adult. Women: if the guy doesn’t like it, he doesn’t like it, don’t say you’re sorry.
  • Stop saying you’re sorry for ending relationships or friendships that are one-sided or draining. If your friendships aren’t enticing you, give them a chance, but then feel your feelings and stop sacrificing yourself to be in a friendship that’s not healthy. Take care of yourself.
  • Stop apologizing for setting boundaries for yourself and reinforcing them. Boundaries are important, they make you a better friend and they’re what make things healthy.
  • Stop saying sorry for standing up for yourself or others. You do that because there is a reason. Stop apologizing for your viewpoints.
  • Stop apologizing for being passionate about something you believe in. If others don’t believe in it, it’s ok. Don’t put yourself down or apologize for your belief system.

Some options for what to do when you feel the urge to say sorry?:

  • One option is to say thank you instead of ‘I’m sorry’. Instead of saying, ‘I’m sorry you had to do the dishes,’ what about, ‘Thank you for doing the dishes.’ Other examples are, ‘Thanks for noticing something I missed,’ or ‘Thanks for reminding me.’ It’s a really healthy thing to do.
  • Save it. Keep the ‘sorry’ inside. Learn from it. A viewpoint or lesson comes up and you want to say sorry, just hold on to it. Don’t throw the hot potato, feel into it.
  • Draw the line. Know what really is apology and what’s not. Don’t default to it but be authentic in your apologies.
  • Embrace your humanity. Just know that humans are prone to make miscues. Be willing to own that.
  • Get support. Maybe do some therapy. Ask for help. Maybe there are parts that you can’t see that are driving you to say sorry, for example a childhood wound.

Rob coaches Stevie and then Shane.

  • Stevie has gotten to the point of not apologizing for his feelings, however finds if he doesn’t apologize at the start, people say he’s arrogant.
  • Rob says people often use ‘I’m sorry’ as a communication bridge, as a way to connect two things, one conversation to the next. However that’s diminishing apology and is a poor use of communication bridge.
  • A more thoughtful way to do that is, ‘If I may offer a different opinion…’ or ‘I have a different thought on this situation…’ That can create more connection because it’s stating clearly that you disagree and there’s no subtle manipulation.
  • Make the communication bridge as authentic as possible. You can even ask permission. ‘I have a different viewpoint, are you interested in hearing it?’ If they say no, they say no.
  • Shane feels apologetic in the realm of money, and in particular when charging her coaching clients a late fee for paying late. The late fee is in the agreement they mutually agreed to, but she feels bad.
  • First off, Rob says love, money, sex and public speaking are the things that will confuse people the most. What Rob is hearing is a piece about worthiness around time and energy.
  • If they have a really good excuse or reason for paying late, Shane knows that she’s buying into their story. Plus, she hates paying late fees too. On the flip side, there’s a mutual agreement and they have broken it.
  • Rob wonders, would people pay at all without penalty? We set boundaries to entice people. We set boundaries to ensure that there’s motion. It’s a friendly and healthy thing to do. Rob sees a late fee as a motivation to help people keep to their agreements.
  • Shane charges the late fees, but finds the conversation around it feels harsh. She’d love a communication bridge or something to help put it into practice.
  • Rob suggests a few options. One option is sending a friendly reminder email before the fee becomes late, reminding of the agreement terms.
  • There is a piece for Shane around worthiness, and relaying that in a way that doesn’t feel aggressive. Her time is worth it, and their agreement is valuable. It’s holding people to their word being important. There’s a lesson in there for them.
  • Rob thinks what usually happens is you have a feeling on Tuesday at 1.37pm but don’t do anything about it. It festers and by Thursday at 4.45pm you’re pissed. Being willing to say what we think and what we feel in the moment avoids the aggression. The aggression is us not being true to our own worth.
  • Money is security. That payment might be the situation where you avoid a late fee. Them missing their payment gets to the core of your foundation, the basic things you need to feel safe in this world. So it can tap into the animalistic part of your brain to do with safety and Maslow’s needs.
  • Rob reminds Shane that they’re an adult. Treat them like an adult. You don’t have to turn them into a child. There are certain elements of the coach-client relationship that they need to be responsible for and that means paying the late fee.
  • Consider where else this shows up, what other areas of life this appears?