Sorry, Not Sorry For Saying Sorry

Sorry, Not Sorry For Saying Sorry

Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sorry. Sounds funny if you say it enough. Or imagine Jim Carrey saying it with his malleable mouth and Canadian accent...Sooorey.

I am so tired of hearing about how women should quit saying sorry. I’m tried of reading headlines like this one from Slate: “New Chrome App Helps Women Stop Saying ‘Just’ and ‘Sorry’ in Emails.”

I’m tired of a world that thinks women have the responsibility to change - to follow rules set by a masculine patriarchal society. The implication here is that men do not apologize so therefore women should also not apologize in order to be taken more seriously. In other words, women should act like men.

What if we turned this around and talked about how and why men should start apologizing more. The headline would now be: “New Chrome App Helps Men Say ‘Just’ and ‘Sorry’ in Emails”. Now THAT is an article I would like to read. And an email I would like to read, too.

Telling women they need to change their behavior in order to be successful is another example of how our society subdues women. What is so wrong with feminine behavior that we need to subscribe to an app to keep us from using certain words?! #censorship.

Sure, over-apologizing for silly things, as satirized hilariously by Amy Schumer, is not something anyone needs (or wants) to do. And no one should feel they have to apologize out of insecurity or fear. Fine, maybe women tend to apologize and use qualifiers more than men, and maybe we apologize too often for reasons we shouldn’t.

Why is it that we apologize more anyway? Perhaps we live in a society that has traditionally prioritized and idolized white male behavior, and we are not male, and many of us not white, and we subconsciously feel we need to constantly apologize for our inferiority.

Perhaps we apologize because we are lucky enough, for whatever reason, to have empathy and high emotional intelligence. Maybe we don’t like feeling aggressive and we don’t want to come across as such. Whatever the reason(s), apologizing is not always bad.

Apologizing does not necessarily undermine someone’s power or respectability. In fact, apologizing for mistakes and admitting when you’re wrong can often enhance these qualities.

It is not demeaning to talk about what you need to work on, what you have done wrong, or what you could be doing better. What’s demeaning is when others see you as weak or “too emotional” rather than brave or confident (much more accurate descriptors IMHO) for talking about these things.

Think about it: Do you remember a time when a co-worker, supervisor, friend, or partner apologized to you for something they did or for their behavior? Did you think them weak and inferior for doing so? Hopefully the answer is no. Hopefully you instead felt appreciative and appreciated, and respected the person a bit more for acknowledging their mistake.


For a good time Google "women apologizing" and "men apologizing" and compare the headlines and content. Have fun!

I recently stumbled upon an article recounting George W. Bush’s apology for the Iraq War. In it, the former president is quoted as saying, "Additionally, once we went to war we should have gone in with a detailed plan. I thought it was more important to topple Saddam Hussein quickly than to prepare for the post-occupation. Clearly I was wrong, and I am sorry”.

What in was it that I had never heard about this apology?! What an amazing way to say sorry for such a messy war. And what a big step as a man to take responsibility! I remember when Bush was asked towards the end of his presidency what he most regretted about his time in the White House. This is what he said:

"Biggest regret, first term, hmm, let's see...What was the other [question]? Have I changed? Well you better ask my wife that question. They say my hair is grayer. But I come from a pretty white-haired gene pool. At least half of it is. And I'll get back to you on the regret. I am not a regretful person. I am a look-forward, get-things-done type of person."

What a disappointing answer. Not in a partisan way, but in a human way. A wasted opportunity to gain respect by showing bravery in admitting your regrets. So I was all the more excited to read about his apology for the Iraq War years later.

My glowing respect for Bush was short lived, however, as I discovered seconds later that The Daily Currant, a joke publication akin to The Onion, had published the apology article that made me all giddy.*

Turns out Bush did express some form of regret about the Iraq War in 2011, but his apology style IRL was much different. The sentiment he expressed that most closely resembled an apology went like this: “I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess” (referring to the incorrect intelligence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction).

That type of apology is not a real apology, or non-apology, according to the brilliant NYT article by Laura Zigman. He’s basically saying, “I’m sorry that other people were wrong” and placing blame on others or other things rather than taking responsibility and actually apologizing.

I don’t bring up this instance to introduce politics or partisanship into this discussion. I showcase it because it exemplifies how someone in a position of significant power has great difficulty admitting wrong doings or apologizing. Imagine if in place of a forced fake apology, Bush had said the words “I am sorry." How powerful that would have been.

I have a hard time articulating a conclusion or even summary of my thoughts and feelings I’ve shared here. They are complicated and deep and hard to put into words. But if there is a take away at all it’s that if we are going to discuss apologizing then let’s make it a more well-rounded discussion that includes the importance of appropriately apologizing for both men and women.

I’d also like this discussion to include how we can champion and embrace a more feminine atmosphere that perhaps includes mini-apologies and emotional intelligence. My hope is that we break away from encouraging women to be like men and instead encourage an equality that doesn’t try to change feminine behavior but respects it.

*This is why it is very important to check your sources. Don’t believe everything shared on Facebook!