why sorry when your not

The other day someone apologized to me for something they felt bad about. The overall exchange felt forced, inauthentic and lacking sincerity. After a brief conversation with this person regarding the awkward nature of the exchange, we both quickly realized (and laughed) that there was no harm, foul or reason for their apology. This immediately had me thinking about two things:

  1. How do you effectively apologize to another person
  2. When should you not apologize to another person

Too often, we apologize because we worry too much about what other people think, or because we put their feelings above our own needs. Either way, science says there is a formula in how to effectively apologize:

  • The following need to be present: (1) a statement of regret for what happened; (2) a clear ‘I’m sorry’ statement; and (3) a request for forgiveness.
  • In addition: three additional apology components play an important role in determining whether an apology will be effective: (A) Expressions of empathy; (B)Offers of compensation; and (C) Acknowledgments that certain rules or social norms were violated.

Following these components were found to be most effective when they were matched to the characteristics of the person to whom the apology was being offered.

But what about the stuff we shouldn’t necessarily apologize for?

Here are 15 situations I found in my research where an apology is most likely not necessary. 

  1. Never apologize for saying no.
    Respecting your own limitations is a sign of self-respect. If you cannot give 100 percent to something you should never apologize for saying no. The ability to say no is a sign of a good leader.
  2. Never apologize for wanting more.
    There is a fine line between greed and a healthy desire for more. We are creatures of constant evolution, we change and grow. Our goals are what power these changes. Without desire, there would be no progress.
  3. Never apologize for not giving into other people’s expectations.
    You are your own person and the opinions and expectations of others should never restrict you from doing what you know is right for you. Don’t let others slow you down, don’t let their judgments get you down. Stand tall and have faith in your particular path but ignore the opinions of others – striking the balance is key.
  4. Never apologize for giving your honest opinion.
    Strong people tell the truth. Never apologize for being strong. Even if the truth hurts, the benefits of honesty far outweigh the initial sting of the truth.
  5. Never apologize for your past.
    Your past is just that. It’s your past. Own it and learn from your past but move on. Everyone makes foolish mistakes, but as long as it’s not part of who you are today and you’ve forgiven yourself for your mistakes, it shouldn’t be on your list of things to apologize for.
  6. Never apologize for following your dreams.
    A life lived with regret is yours to miss. Never apologize for following a dream because that dream makes you who you are. You will never fulfill happiness unless you live your dreams instead of dreaming your life.
  7. Never apologize for taking “Me” time.
    You will never be successful and fulfill your happiness unless you first take care of yourself. Always take care of your own needs and take “me time” to do things that make you happy.
  8. Never apologize for ending a toxic relationship.
    You should never say that you are sorry for letting go of someone who hurts you. Understanding an unhealthy relationship holds you back from reaching your full potential is a huge step forward. Be proud and surround yourself with people who celebrate your courage.
  9. Never Apologize for your imperfections.
    Imperfections are what make you beautiful and unique. They should be embraced. Never say you’re sorry for a quality that makes you imperfectly perfect.
  10. Never apologize for not knowing the answer.
    The constant quest for knowledge keeps our brains young. Never say you’re sorry when presented with an opportunity to learn. Being able to admit you do not know is a sign of strength and humility.
  11. Never apologize for high expectations.
    Never apologize for expecting the same of others as you expect of yourself. Having high expectations only means that you care enough about others to push them to be their best.
  12. Never apologize for a delay in your response.
    Successful people understand that prioritizing sometimes means a delay in responding to emails and phone calls. Just maintain your integrity around your time management and response time.
  13. Never apologize for acting on your instincts.
    Listening to your body then taking action on what you hear is the hallmark of heroic people.
  14. Never apologize for asking for what you need.
    The answer to every question you DON’T ask is always no.
  15. Never apologize for asking questions.
    When you stop asking questions, you don’t just run out of answers you run out of hope.

    Below is an additional 10 more situations (yes, I got carried away…Enjoy!).

  16. Never apologize for asserting yourself.
    The word assert comes from the Latin asserere, which means, to claim, maintain or affirm. And that’s exactly what you’re entitled to: Your opinion. Your belief. Your say.
  17. Never apologize for being a newbie.
    Every great chess master was once a beginner.
  18. Never apologize for being early for an appointment.
    In the history of Corporate America, no employee has ever been fired for consistently arriving ten minutes early to every meeting.
  19. Never apologize for disagreeing.
    Especially if you do so respectfully. On the other hand, if you’re disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing, or because of your pathological need to be right, that’s a different story.
  20. Never apologize for getting something off your chest.
    That which you suppress will find a home in your body (and then it will reek havoc).
  21. Never apologize for growing up privileged.
    As long as you scrap the entitlement attitude, remain grateful for everything you’ve ever been given and respect the life situation of those who are less fortunate, it’s all-good.
  22. Never apologize for having an overabundance of love in your life.
    Instead, circulate what you’ve got. Pay it forward. Share it. People need it.
  23. Never apologize for lack of experience.
    Instead, share your Learning Plan; demonstrate your dedication to lifelong learning and practice becoming the world’s expert at learning from your experiences.
  24. Never apologize for lack of information.
    Ignorance is acceptable. Staying ignorant, however, is um…dumb.
  25. Never apologize for looking out for yourself.
    Self-preservation is a primary driver of human behavior. It’s how we’re wired.

Final thoughts:
When it’s all said and done, the best advice is to be true to yourself and don’t worry too much about what other people think. Over apologizing or saying I’m sorry when it’s not warranted can reduce your self-esteem over time and can alter how others perceive your level of confidence. In short, say, “I’m sorry” for when you actually made a mistake.

The floor is yours:
What should you never apologize for?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

Please click ‘Follow’ if you would like to hear more from me in the future.