I hear it all the time:
“Sorry my e-mail was too long.”
“Sorry to bother you.”
“Sorry I didn’t write back sooner.”
There are endless other reasons people apologize. It’s time to stop.
Other reasons you might be apologizing:
Because you were waiting in the wrong line.
Because you went to the bathroom in the middle of the movie.
For showing up late.
For choosing a restaurant that was closed.
When someone misunderstood what you said (and thought you said something awful).
For giving the wrong answer to a question because you misheard.
For taking the last donut in the box.
For speaking too loudly at the meeting.
For interrupting someone while they’re talking.
Because the airplane seat went back farther than you expected.
For bursting into tears.
For forgetting something.
For having a differing opinion.
For not answering the e-mail over the weekend.
Just. Stop. Apologizing.
There’s only one reason ever to apologize.
You did something objectively wrong and caused harm.
Did you do something wrong? To be clear, I don’t mean, did you do something that aggravated, annoyed, distressed, confused or contradicted. I mean, did you do something thoughtless, mean or intended that caused another person harm? If so, then definitely take responsibility and apologize.
There’s a great book called Thanks for the Feedback that completely changed the way I see feedback and owning up when we’ve done something wrong.
Those other things, though?
These apologies often result from a misunderstanding, a mistake or a disagreement. They can be cleared up or fixed. If you disagree, there’s no need to apologize for what you believe, no matter how much it differs from someone else.
Stop giving away your power!
Mel Robbins, the author of The Five Second Rule: Transform Your Life, Work and Confidence with Everyday Courage explains how apologizing when there’s no reason strips away our personal power. When we apologize for arriving late, we let everyone in the room know about foibles instead of shifting the focus onto something else.
Yes, there will be times you are truly wrong.
That’s not to say we don’t take responsibility when we do something wrong. It’s to say we need to recognize when we’ve actually done something wrong and for the rest, shift the focus.
Instead of apologizing, thank someone for waiting or for their patience or for understanding.
Instead of apologizing, recognize we’re all human and make mistakes.
We have a right to take up space in this world, even if sometimes we trip on others in that space. We have a right to have opinions. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean you have to pack your bag and go home.
How does this apply to writing?
You need your opinions to share your story. You can’t write a personal essay if you’re apologizing for yourself while you write it. It would be a special act of torture to write a memoir while apologizing for each action, word and memory. There will always be someone to criticize your writing, to tell you it’s not good enough, to say you can’t publish or share your thoughts.
Writing is an act of defiance and of sharing yourself. It’s your belief on paper. Writing means taking a stand and showing the world who you are and what you believe. Never apologize for you.
Say it with me one more time: It’s time to stop apologizing!