Ever apologize for something you really didn’t need to apologize for? Something out of your control, or perhaps even in the control of the person to whom you apologized? For being “over-sensitive” in either the physical or emotional sense? For not wanting something? For wanting it?
This entry on Jezebel addresses the apology. The over-apology, or unnecessary apology, specifically. One commenter on Jezebel says it isn’t a uniquely female attribute, and he’s right, but it is an especially female attribute. ”How does this relate to self-defence?” you may find yourself wondering. Well, I’ll tell you: The more you respect yourself, the more comfortable you are. The more comfortable you are, the more likely you are to recognize discomfort early. The sooner you recognize discomfort, the sooner you will act to change it.
The sincere, needed apology is a good thing – it conveys respect for both parties, and can go a long way to ending conflict. The apology that is unnecessary -no matter how sincere- upsets the balance (or, in most cases, maintains the already-upset balance). Aside from feeding into the ego of the person who receives the apology (and perhaps in a cognitively dissonant turn of events giving them an opportunity to pursue a greater imbalance) this passivity also communicates a disrespect for the most important person you know: you. That disrespect can be very damaging, by the way; as pointed out on Jezebel, apologies can become such a part of who you are you will apologize when you should be apologized to. Constantly being on alert for things to apologize for is a form of hyper-vigilance – a very real health concern that can lead to sleep disturbances, mood swings, headaches, lost time from work, and other issues.
“But I don’t want to hurt his feelings,” said one participant in a self-defence class. “That’s why I would sooner say, ‘Sorry, my feet are too sore…‘ instead of ‘No’ when I don’t want to dance with a guy.” And again, this is why we can say, “No, thank you.” It isn’t your job to care-take the other person’s feelings by being dishonest to him or disrespectful to yourself; it’s your job to look after you. The more honest you are, the sooner the other person can get used to the idea not everything is your fault (and so can you). Then he or she can work on becoming more comfortable, too. Win-win.
Most serial apologizers had it hammered into them how responsible they are for the state of… well, everything, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself identifying with the Jezebel piece, swearing to change, and then encountering difficulty doing so. It’s likely to be really difficult moving away from that conditioning. You may need help doing it. Find a friend, share the article, and practice. Yep, you read that right, practice not apologizing. Get good at it. Just as good as you should be at apologizing when it actually is your fault.
In the words of Robert J. Ringer, “If you’re guilty, say so, apologize, then forget it. If you’re not guilty, skip the apology and just forget it.”
If you’re interested in assertiveness education as it relates to enhancing safety and comfort, contact The Best Defense Program today.