I heard it again yesterday, the words “I’m sorry” when it was unnecessary. And it was said by a woman. When I told her that no apology was necessary because she did nothing wrong, there was no response.

It was quite innocent; we were having a casual light-hearted online chat when someone came to her door. She excused herself and then told me she was sorry when she returned. There was no commitment to chat nor was there an understanding that the conversation would continue. A simple message saying she was back would have been enough.

She’s not the first woman to say it. I have a friend who has a habit of saying “I’m sorry”. She says she’s trying to break the habit; or rather her husband and I are trying to break her of it. Why?

When I hear her say, “I’m sorry” out of context or for the tenth time in a day, I ask, “What are you sorry for?”

Usually she stares at me like I am some idiot for not wanting to hear that I was right or that she was sympathizing with me. But that’s not the case.

When you say “I am sorry” the inference is you have done something wrong.

Most of the time, she doesn’t even realize she said it or doesn’t know why she said it. To her, it was a nice thing to say.

“I am Sorry” Means Avoiding Conflict

One explanation for you saying “I’m sorry” too often is it deflects conflict.

For example, if you had an overbearing parent, significant other or boss where keeping the peace was the primary goal, this might have been an effective strategy – for a while. You may not even notice how often you say it unless someone points it out. Unfortunately, doing it may cost you more than you think.

Is it Wrong to Say “I’m Sorry”?

I am going to put it on the table. Saying “I’m sorry” too many times or at the wrong time is a sign of weakness, especially for women. At home or in business, you immediately lose credibility.

There will be times when saying “I’m sorry” is appropriate, but it is not on a daily basis. If it is, then you have bigger problems.

Make a practice of saying what you really mean to say. Here are some examples:

  • Wow, that really stinks.
  • You’ve certainly have a big challenge in front of you.
  • Life sucks.
  • Is there something I can do to help?
  • You must be feeling awful.
  • You are having some bad luck!
  • What can I do differently?

Make “I am Sorry” Count

Avoid diluting the words “I’m sorry”. When you say “I’m sorry” too much, it loses meaning and emphasis. Save it for when you really need it because you hurt someone’s feelings. And know when you are saying it.