“Sorry about that…” “Sorry for getting back to you so late…” “I’m sorry, my bad!” “So sorry…” “Sorry, but I think…” “Sorry to bother you…”
For many people, women especially, these phrases come out almost involuntarily. We apologize for everything, from responding to a message late to simply speaking up at a meeting. This is called the “sorry reflex.” If I were to count the number of times I apologize in a day or I hear someone else apologize, the number would be in the hundreds. Why do women always feel the need to apologize for everything, even for things that are not their fault?
Women often fall prone to belittling their talents, worth and abilities. Constantly apologizing and doubting their qualifications impact their confidence and credibility in the workplace. There is an incessant fear of being wrong or at fault and the word sorry is overused to the point where it completely loses its effect. When you actually do something wrong or make a mistake, if you apologize it could be viewed as insincere or unsubstantial if you use the term too often.
The concept of the “sorry reflex” first caught my attention when a Barbie vlog on the topic went viral. The video was posted all over Twitter and Instagram, and Barbie’s words rang true to me. I realized how often I apologize over the most mundane things and how it hinders my own self-confidence. Barbie makes great points about how we as women instantly say sorry, both when we are really happy or really sad because we are afraid about how we appear to others. She speaks on how every time we use it unnecessarily, “sorry” loses its importance and takes away from our own self-confidence. She then challenges viewers to try going a day without saying “sorry” and then taking the next step to switch “sorry” with “thank you.”
This is a challenge I have personally taken on and I am working against my own “sorry reflex.” This comic by artist Yao Xiao provides numerous examples on how to do so and gives some context. You can start as simple as saying “thank you for waiting for me” instead of “sorry I’m late” and then go forward. Saying “thank you” instead of “sorry” completely changes the dynamic of the conversation, and ultimately has so much power. It creates a lighter conversation and puts less pressure on yourself and your companion. Most importantly, it helps to elevate your self-worth and confidence. I hope all people, women especially, will take on this challenge and learn to conquer their own sorry reflexes.