Is it too late now to say sorry?


The other day, I was walking down Caf Lane when I saw a guy on a skateboard almost run down a girl walking to her class. This was not what surprised me. What surprised me was that the girl automatically turned to the skateboarder and said one word.


“Sorry?” This guy almost ran her over and she is apologizing to him? The only reason this girl would have apologized to him is if the word was so instinctive to her that she just said it automatically. This made me think about the word “sorry” and its use in our lives.

The more I started listening for
it, the more I started noticing its constant presence in everyday life. “Sorry,” said the barista at Better Buzz when I bumped into her. “Sorry,” said the guy who dropped a pencil in front of the girl next to him in science class. What are we all so sorry for?

I’m not the first person to notice this phenomenon. New York Times writer Sloane Crosley talked about this barrage of sorrys in an opinion piece for the publication last July, claiming that, “It’s not what we’re saying that’s the problem, it’s what we’re not saying. The sorrys are taking up airtime that should be used for making logical, declarative statements, expressing opinions and relaying accurate impressions of what we want.”

In other words, we are using sorry as a replacement for the things that we actually need to be saying. Instead of simply stating our purpose, we are apologizing as an easy reflex.

An article in Psychology Today agreed that these excess apologies are too much, but for a different reason.

“Saying sorry too much can trivialize the act of apology, making the important ones carry less weight,” states the article by Dr. Juliana Breines.

If you said that every food in the 
caf was your favorite food, would any- one believe you when you said that the cookies were your favorite food (obviously)? By the same logic, if we are saying sorry about things that don’t actually matter, then it means a lot less when we say sorry about things that do.

So how can we fix this sorry state of affairs?

The first thing we can do is just to think about what we say. Our words have weight and it would do us all a favor to stop and consider them. Are you actually sorry or do you need to rephrase?

If you really want to do an apology overhaul, there is actually a Gmail plug in called “Just Not Sorry” that will warn you with a red underline when you use phrases such as “I’m sorry” or “I’m not expert.” Over at news source Refinery29, the writers on staff tried an experiment in which they counted how many times they apologized in a day. After a full day of tallied apologizes and psychological analysis, they came up with what I find to be the best advice: “Stand up straight, look the person in the eye, and say “I apologize.” But only do it when you’re truly sorry.”

I’m not urging you to be a heartless, ruthless person who never feels bad for the terrible things that they have done. What I am suggesting is that you think about your words and only say sorry when you truly are. As in, not when someone almost takes you out with their skateboard.

Mackenzie Leveque is a junior journalism major.

photo by: pdpics.com


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