So you're a Canadian raised in a compassionate family, and you've probably said 'sorry' more times than 'the' or 'and' in your lifetime. I'm not about to tell you that you should stop being polite, but I am going to tell you that saying sorry too often is detrimental to your confidence and reputation.

Of course you should say sorry when you're in the wrong and when you feel guilty. But if you begin to say sorry when you're not in the wrong, then you create the illusion that you are in the wrong. By saying sorry when you have no reason to be, you are framing yourself as guilty when you aren't, and you may even begin to believe that you are guilty yourself. They bumped you, but since you said sorry, you're being hit with the glare as if it really was your fault.

Sometimes we say 'sorry' when we can say 'thank-you' instead. Look for opportunities to replace 'sorry' with "thank-you" whenever possible. For example, say "thank you for your time" rather than "sorry for wasting your time" or "thank you for helping me" rather than "sorry for the inconvenience". Saying thank-you makes you look and feel grateful rather than guilty, and people would much rather receive appreciation than an apology.

Don't apologize when you're asking a question or to clarify something. It invalidates your question and your right to have clarity on the matter. Apologizing when there is an opportunity to express gratitude is not good for either party. It will make the recipient of your apology believe that you are not confident, or worse, not entitled to whatever you were asking for, which in turn nullifies the whole point of asking.

Don't apologize for the way you feel. Don't apologize for being a downer. Thank people for being there for you, and for their willingness to understand you. The more you tell people that they are a victim of something you must apologize for, the more you are feeling badly and playing victim yourself.  "Sorry" is the victim's anthem.

Lastly, over-apologizing makes you look pathetic and even insincere. If you say sorry a million times over, it's probably unwarranted, and one sincere apology will do. But if you did something really bad, repeating the word won't do much except agitate the person you're apologizing to. Remember that actions speak much louder than words, and you're better off making a conscious effort to improve your behaviour than bombarding someone with nagging apologies that imply to the person you won't stop repeating the damn word until they finally say "it's okay."

So unless you truly have something to say sorry for, don't say it. Own your actions and express gratitude where applicable. Don't be so hard on yourself. Apologize when you need to, improve, and proceed. Don't get weighed down in the burden of self-inflicted guilt. Embrace that you make mistakes and move on.


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