Skip to main content

Don’t over-apologize: Say this instead

When it comes to relationships, the sincere apology is an indispensable part of the problem-solving toolkit. If you can’t admit when you’re wrong and seek the forgiveness of others, it’s nigh-on impossible to grow or maintain healthy relationships.

But sometimes, an apology becomes something different.

Related Videos

For various reasons such as low self-esteem, a fear of conflict, or just a desire not to rock the boat, over-apologizing can be a way to resolve tension at all costs, even if it means accepting blame when we did nothing wrong or weren’t even involved.

Does this sound familiar? Are you trying to kick the sorry habit? Here’s a quick dive into the concept and then things to say instead of over-apologizing.

Why are apologies overdone?

Apologies are a way of breaking down walls that build up when another party has been wronged. Saying you’re sorry helps to acknowledge the error, offer respect to the other party, and re-balance the scales of the relationship. It shows you care and want the relationship to return to a healthy state.

However, many people find themselves apologizing for actions that don’t rise to that level — that, in other words, do not justify an apology. As just a few examples, it’s inappropriate but not uncommon to apologize before taking a turn speaking in a group, after accidentally bumping into someone (or they bump into you), or in the wake of a reasonable disagreement.

Writing in Forbes, psychologist Jay Rai explained the reasons behind the phenomenon:

By saying ‘sorry if’ or ‘sorry to,’ this shows that you’re subconsciously seeking reassurance…you’re also sending a message to those you’re speaking to that often undermines the validity of your statements or implies that you lack confidence in expressing yourself or asserting your own needs.

Why it can be problematic

Although there’s no evidence that over-apologizing directly causes any health problems, it could be a sign of deeper psychological stress or trauma.

In Forbes, Rai writes:

Over-apologizing is a common symptom amongst individuals with low self-esteem, fear of conflict and a fear of what others think. This goes hand in hand with poor boundaries, perhaps accepting blame for things we didn’t do or couldn’t control. We instantly feel guilty, like everything is our fault — a belief that probably began in childhood. When someone is afraid of rejection and criticism, they will go out of their way to be accommodating.

That’s a problem because you are essentially putting yourself on the back burner, rather than stepping forward to be yourself and share your ideas, feelings, and experiences with those around you.

What to say instead

There are many variations on when and how the over-apology is used, so there’s not one silver-bullet response that will always work in its place. However, here are a few ideas for things to say in some common situations.

  • Try replacing “I’m sorry” with “excuse me,” which is a bit more assertive.
  • Instead of “sorry I’m late,” try “thanks for your patience.”
  • Don’t over-apologize for your presence or absence, or for asserting yourself. For example, instead of saying “sorry to interrupt,” try “do you have a free moment?”
  • Replace “sorry I can’t make it” with “I won’t be able to make it this time.”
  • Instead of “I’m sorry for criticizing you” (which can also put the other party on the defensive), try “I have a few thoughts to share.”

Overuse of just about anything can lead to problems or difficulties. Even the apology, which is full of nothing but good intentions, can have a negative effect if used in excess.

If you believe you may over-apologize, it might be worth examining the real potential reasons why you do this. For example, do you think you may have low self-esteem? If so, talking to someone about the issue, be it a family member, friend, or a care professional such as a therapist, can be a great first step.

Although the wording changes offered above may seem superficial, they can not only break the habit of over-apology but help you change your mindset. It’s not hard to move from being a more subservient or reserved person to one who is more self-assured and more prepared to stand on equal footing with others.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

Editors' Recommendations

Try these products for home wellness
A woman relaxing at a spa.

We all strive to be the healthiest forms of ourselves possible. With the rise in the wellness industry and certain fads, it can seem daunting to keep up and make sure you do everything to keep your body in optimal shape. Aside from keeping up, going to wellness salons and studios to feel better can do some damage to your wallet.

We want you to look good and feel good, so we rounded up five products for home wellness to better your day-to-day life. Whether you need a better shower, loosen your muscles or save time and energy otherwise spent at a supply store, we got you. Get these five products and start changing the way you live.

Read more
5 Exercise Bands That Take Your Workouts to Another Level
EDX 7-Piece Resistance Band Set

If you’re interested in resistance training, but find that traditional weightlifting isn’t your thing, exercise bands are the perfect solution. Their versatility can elevate your workouts in ways you’ve never imagined! Resistance bands come in a wide variety of resistance levels and allow movements that mimic the most intense weight workouts. They’re also excellent for active rest days to keep blood flowing to muscles while they recover from heavy weight work. 

If you’re on a budget, bands are much more affordable than machines or free weights, as well as being thoroughly portable and taking up less space than free weights. And for anyone who does favor weight workouts, BFR, or blood flow restriction bands are another type of exercise band that helps you maximize your workouts by isolating blood flow for ultimate size and tone at lower weight loads. The bands listed below can help your workouts reach new heights!

Read more
Prevent and support gym injuries with these products
best kettlebell brands home woman gym

When it comes it staying active, preventing and supporting gym injuries is vital. In order to make sure you can exercise consistently and stay healthy, it’s important to have some know-how and invest in the right products. Joint injuries, muscle pains, and tendon strains all make it harder to have an optimal workout, so addressing those issues right away can support your fitness goals.


Read more