Stop Overusing “Sorry”: Frequent Apologies Devalue Meaning of the Word

by The Cowl Editor on December 6, 2018


Graphic of people texting with one continuously saying "sorry."
Oftentimes, we apologize so much that we do not even know what we are saying sorry for. Photo courtesy of We Heart It.

by Julia McCoy ’22

Opinion Staff

It’s quite common, whether on campus or off, to say sorry more than once a day. But how many times are we actually apologetic rather than just not wanting to cause a minor inconvenience?

“Sorry” is a word frequently used by females. It is commonly used as a way to avoid confrontation.

However, an issue arises when women begin to use this word excessively. Women begin to say sorry as if everything is their fault. It seems like it is their obligation to take the blame for even the slightest inconvenience in someone’s life.

In the course of a day, many situations present themselves in which someone is slightly inconvenienced. For example, if an elevator door is closing and someone gets on last second, causing a slight delay, the person entering the elevator is very likely to say sorry.

Are we genuinely apologetic for getting on the elevator, something anyone would do in our position? No.

What actually occurs is much more a result of social pressures. Women are socialized to be more passive and apologize in advance in order to avoid any sort of confrontation. As a result, an overcompensation of passivity engenders an excessive amount of apologies.

Abigail Pruchnicki ’22 said, “When I say sorry, I usually feel like I’m not actually sorry. I feel like I have to say it so someone will not judge me.”

Like many others, Pruchnicki addresses an issue of social pressure. Instead of addressing an actual issue and understanding the reasons for which she should be excused, many girls feel they need to apologize for things that have not yet been presented as issues.

When asked about why she apologizes, Kristen Moran ’22 said, “It is not always genuine, I just don’t want people to be mad at me. I feel as if I have to say it so people don’t judge me.”

In a constant state of worry regarding what people think, girls are hyper aware of their actions.

According to an article from Greater Good Magazine, writer Emma Seppala said, “Women do, in general, report experiencing more compassion in their lives than men report doing,” having been socialized differently from infancy.

This is likely a result of the different ways in which men and women were raised. From childhood, girls are told to act “like a lady.” They are taught to be conservative in stating their opinions and in causing any sort of mild discomfort for the people around them.

“I have to say sorry for doing things that are not ladylike or out of character for myself,” said Pruchnicki.

To maintain an image that is pleasing to an outside perspective, women must apologize for things that might not be pleasing to those around them. Women find it necessary to apologize for asking too many questions, which will only benefit them in the end.

Consider this next time you go to apologize to someone: are you genuinely sorry? do you feel the need to be excused for something you did?

If the answer is no, consider another phrase. Perhaps “thank you” when someone holds a door a second too long or waits on the elevator for you. “Excuse me” is a great alternative when you almost bump into someone.

In short, “sorry” is a loaded word that carries much more significance when it is not heard various times a day. Consider the weight of your words and they will become more meaningful than ever before.