Two weeks in… How are we doing? Have you been working on your empathy and making your black lists? This week’s challenge might be another tricky one because it deals with unconscious behaviors. Don’t worry, next week will be a fun one!
An interesting quote about Automatic Apologizing has been floating around tumblr recently (although, of course, now that I want to credit it, I can’t find it), and got me thinking about the subject. It might seem innocent and it’s almost always unconscious, but Auto Apologizing is something that can insidiously chip away at your positivity.
What is Automatic Apologizing?
I define it as the unconscious tendency to start sentences with an apology or the knee-jerk reaction to apologize to any negative emotion. Think about it. How many times a day do you preface your opinion with a “sorry” or apologize for the copier or coffee machine not working (when it’s completely out of your control)? Women are definitely more likely to fall into this trap, but men sometimes do, as well.
Why do we do it?
The reasons vary. Sometimes, it’s simply a reactive response: when you haven’t heard someone clearly, when you need to get past someone in a crowd, when you’re asking someone for something. Sometimes, it’s a preemptive fear of being disliked. Here’s an example from Christine Rose Elle’s Dollybelle blog:
Somewhere deep down I had the feeling I needed to apologize for my existence. Or if I messed up. Or if I was more successful than someone at something. I was so quick to try to manage someone else’s feeling. I would try to comfort myself by making their feeling somehow my responsibility.
Sometimes, and most destructively, it’s assuming the responsibility for a situation on yourself or, worse yet, inferring an amount of blame from the person to whom you’re apologizing.
Why is it bad?
There are two main reasons to be more aware of your auto apologies. First, abundances of empty “sorry”s dilute more meaningful expressions of apology. Second, the more you apologize for every act of your existence, the more you feel there’s something worth apologizing for. You’re probably familiar with the Eleanor Roosevelt quote “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Apologizing for speaking is practically giving consent for the other person not to take you seriously: If you have to apologize for what you’re about to say, why should they listen?
What does this have to do with positivity?
A large part of positivity is self-confidence. While it’s easy to say “Hey, you there! Feel good about yourself!” it’s much harder to put into practice if your confidence has been systematically chipped away by… well, life. Our own Meghan Krogh-Young wrote a great piece a few months ago about “The Myth of Preexistant Self Esteem.“ As part of the Positivity Challenge, as well as re-framing the way we see the world, we’re going to work on re-framing the way we see ourselves, too.
This Week’s Challenge
Take the automatic apology out of your vocabulary this week. When you feel the need to say “sorry,” ask yourself what you actually mean and say that instead. If you didn’t understand someone, say “I missed that. Could you say it again?” If you’re in a crowd, say “Excuse me” instead of “sorry.” If the coffee machine is on the fritz at work, and it’s your responsibility, thank the person for letting you know and tell them you’ll get it fixed. If it’s a situation that truly warrants an apology, don’t just leave it at “sorry,” explain what you’re sorry for. And NEVER apologize for your feelings or successes.
This Week’s Mantra
It was hard to pinpoint this week’s challenge into a simple mantra. Fortunately, TinyBuddha.com helped me out with this bit of TinyWisdom: “We must remember that an apology isn’t an apology unless it’s meaningful.” -Unknown
If you want a reminder of your mantra for the next week, feel free to click the image below to download a wallpaper-sized version.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional or mental health expert, and there are problems that positivity cannot overcome, so please do not take this advice in lieu of a doctor’s care.
Not all challenges will be relevant to everyone, so I welcome you to come and go as you please and take from each change what works for you! Please make sure to share your thoughts in the comments!