Why I’m done saying ‘sorry’

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Lauren Sullivan, R3 Editor-in-Chief

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Think about the number of times you say “sorry” in one day. Can you even keep track? Is it one time, ten times or did you lose count after 25?

Now think about why you said “sorry.” Were you unsure of an answer you gave in class? Did you need the teacher to repeat information? Or did you hit the volleyball into the net during gym?

If you answered “yes” to any of these situations, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Although the circumstances above do not require an apology, today’s society is a breeding ground for apologizing when it is unnecessary—especially for women.

Without knowing it, many girls say “sorry” more often than boys. According to a study conducted by the University of Waterloo, this is because men have a higher threshold of actions or words that they deem necessary of an apology. Therefore, both genders apologize for their mistakes, but something that a girl thinks warrants an apology, a boy might not.

Being assertive is not wrong and knowing the answer to something isn’t rude—it’s being confident in yourself and your abilities.”

— Lauren Sullivan

Dr. Stephen Hinshaw’s book The Triple Bind: Saving Our Teenage Girls from Today’s Pressures and Conflicting Expectations explains how this different threshold of what requires an apology is a result of the different ways boys and girls are raised. Boys are taught to be assertive, competitive and confident, while girls are expected to be polite, confident but not conceited, smart but not too smart and assertive but not a try-hard. Girls are also raised to be more concerned about people’s emotions, whereas boys are praised when they are competitive and independent.

With these different upbringings, it is no wonder girls tend to mutter “sorry” more, because in the back of our heads there is always the fear of sounding too rude, too assertive or too bossy. But it’s time for this to change. Being assertive is not wrong and knowing the answer to something isn’t rude— it’s being confident in yourself and your abilities.

“Sorry” is a word that expresses regret and sadness, but in many cases, girls use “sorry” as a filler word to mask anxiety, insecurities or fear. However, these incorrect uses of “sorry” can easily be replaced by other, more fitting words and actions:

1. “Excuse me”: It is not necessary to apologize when asking a teacher to repeat information, and in this circumstance the word “sorry” is being used to mask the fear of drawing attention. Be confident and ask the question.

2. “I’ll get it next time”: There is certainly no room for “sorry” in sports. Making a mistake is part of playing and growing as an athlete. Any person with common sense will know that you didn’t mean to strike out, hit the ball into the net or miss the goal. Take your mistakes as learning experiences.

3. Take a breath and collect yourself: Public speaking is another siutation in which “sorry” is often heard, especially after a slip-up during a presentation. There’s no doubt that everyone experiences a certain amount of fear and anxiety before a big presentation. However, there’s no reason to apologize for a mispronunciation or for muddling the order of a few words. Everyone does it.

4. Assert yourself: Let’s talk about the phrase, “Sorry, I don’t know if this is correct.” You should never preface an answer with an apology. Whatever you say, say it with confidence. If you think you know the answer don’t whisper it—say it, yell it or even scream it if you have to. Be assertive in your response even if you’re not sure it is correct.

“Sorry” has taken on a role in our society that it does not deserve. No one should be sorry to be an active member of their community, because there is simply nothing to apologize for.

So I, for one, am done saying the word “sorry.” I hope you all decide to join me in a world where there is a lot less apologizing and a lot more confidence.