When to say, “I’m sorry.”

We had a lot of exchange students in our house when I was a kid. As a result, my sister and I were often model examples of typical kids from the US. Our mannerisms and speech were often commented on or mimicked.

One day one of the students asked me why I apologized for things that were not my fault. “I’m sorry,” I replied, only adding to her confusion about when you were/were not supposed to use the phrase.

I’d like to say this question made me come to a realization and change my ways, but it didn’t. Like many women from the US, I apologize, frequently, for things that are not my fault or in my domain.

It’s a thing women do. We apologize too much. It’s well documented. There have been advertising campaigns about it.  

This Video Is For Everyone Who Constantly Says “Sorry”With Ashly Perez and Quinta B.

Posted by BuzzFeed Violet on Thursday, May 7, 2015


The people of the internet have offered a solution to this verbal tic; #sorrynotsorry. I find the hashtag insulting and, like most hashtag causes, doesn’t really solve anything.  

We're using the word wrong. We're saying sorry when we have lost our confidence or want to be reassured. I believe a genuine apology can be one of the most powerful things in the world, so I am trying to be more aware of my apologies. I want to eliminate the verbal tics so the real apologies have more weight. To do so, I have made a list of rules for myself.

  1. I will never use #sorrynotsorry.
  2. I don’t say, “I am sorry, but…” as the but is an indicator I am actually not apologizing.  
  3. I apologize, sincerely, when I am wrong or have hurt someone.
  4. I don’t apologize if I don’t do something that is a shared responsibility.  
  5. When I say I am sorry, I try to acknowledge the next appropriate step.
  6. And the hardest one; I only say I’m sorry if I truly mean it.

I write this to remind myself and others that we don’t have to apologize to participate in our lives.