How to Stop Constantly Saying 'I'm Sorry'

On average, how many times do you apologize during any given day?

The answer might be higher than you think.

It has been shown that has found that people say "I’m sorry" multiple times each day. This is perfectly acceptable when the person has done something wrong, but in many cases the words are tossed out too often as a force of habit, even in situations that don’t warrant an apology.

"Apologizing, like most things in life, is neither a good nor a bad thing," notes psychotherapist Karen Koenig. "It’s useful when it is heartfelt and done for an appropriate reason. However, many people fail to say it when they should and others say it habitually with no reason. It is only appropriate when you feel you’ve done something wrong that you want to correct."

There are many different reasons for our culture’s tendency to over-apologize. Some people may have picked up the habit during childhood, while others may be prompted by anxiety and the desire to tame precarious situations or avoid confrontations, explains Dr. Nalin, Psy.D. with Paradigm Malibu. "Emotional abuse is also a contributing factor that may motivate individuals to take the blame," he points out. "This is also the case with highly sensitive people or those with people-pleasing attributes."

According to Dr. Nalin, a surplus of "sorrys" sends a message that we are comfortable claiming ownership for things that are not actually our fault. "In a way, it speaks to our self-worth and the way we view ourselves, which may encourage others to mistreat and take advantage of our too-good nature," he explains.

5 Ways to Stop Begging for Forgiveness

  • Mull it over. Before uttering words of apology, Dr. Nalin says to stop and ask yourself if the situation in question is truly your fault. If not, refrain from commenting or use a different set of words. "When others realize that our apologies are carefully weighed, they will treat us in a more respectful manner," he notes.
  • Make a list of your "trigger situations." Koenig says it’s important to pay attention to when you tend to apologize. Do you find yourself automatically saying "I’m sorry" to certain people? Do you feel a certain way when you say it, such as ashamed, anxious or afraid? You might try keeping a journal of these scenarios.
  • Transform apologies into gratitude. Dr. Heidi McKenzie with Integrity Psychological Services recommends saying "thank you" instead of "I’m sorry." As an example, instead of saying, "I'm sorry for being late," try saying, "Thank you for waiting." Or instead of saying, "I’m sorry to ask you to do this," you could say, "Thank you so much for taking the time to help me."
  • Rehearse and prepare: Once you have identified your triggers, you can prepare reactions to those situations. For instance, if you need to cancel dinner plans with a friend, Dr. Nalin suggests practicing your response ahead of time, using words that will add a more positive spin. For example, you might say something like, "I have an obligation that requires me to postpone our evening out. I know you will understand. Please let me know when we can meet next week." The more you practice, the more natural your non-apologetic speech will feel. 
  • Keep an apology journal. For serious over-apologizers, Dr. McKenzie suggests keeping a log for a week and tallying all of the times they say "I'm sorry" in a week, and why they said it. "Review it and then reassess if this is a phrase that needs to start coming out of your vocabulary as an automatic response," she says.
By taking steps to curb the constant apologies, you will likely find that you gain more respect—both from those around you and from yourself.
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Member Comments

I question the reasoning Report
Saying sorry is not's about the way we say it and whether we say it because we are taking responsibility for a mistake we made, or.....because we are almost always, a doormat!

The latter is not good in any way! Report
I disagree for the same reasons mentioned by others. Report
I too believe this article missed the mark. Much of what is wrong with today’s society is the lack of respect for others. I don’t believe people say “I’m sorry” too often; I believe it is said too infrequently. Report
my son would say he's sorry but I didn't think too much but in the army he said they tell you not to say you're sorry so now he doesn't. I seldom say it Report
I’m sorry. Thank you. Those are both part of my vocabulary daily. Report
If someone is saying "I'm sorry", that someone is being courteous, polite and considerate. Nothing wrong with that. Maybe it's a Canadian thing, but we see no shame in that at all. :-) Report
interesting Report
I can’t be what a difference it has made to transform “I’m sorry” into “ thank you.” It changes how I feel about myself and recognizes the other person. Report
Totally agree with the people who said Be Kind. There is nothing wrong with saying I'm sorry, Excuse me is OK but I'm sorry is better. And you can say I'm sorry that happened. Don't be negative, be positive. Report
The article is not about not being sorry it’s how we express it. When you bump into someone in a store, we can say excuse me as it wasn’t an intentional thing to do. I’m sorry sounds like you are faulting your self. I think about this often & choice my words very carefully. Report
I don't agee with this article. I think it takes a bigger person to say "I'm sorry". I think we need more of this especially with the way this country is going. Does it really hurt to say " I'm sorry". It is the christrian way -It just might diffuse a situation and it might make the other person realize that they were wrong and have them say "No I'm sorry".

Kind words don’t cost anything. The words “I’m sorry” are kind words. Don’t ever stop expressing your feelings, even if you may be wrong. Compassion and humility are found in these words. It’s what make a person good to the core! Report
This article is so messed up . IT"S ALWAYS GOOD TO SAY YOU ARE SORRY. this so out of touch with reality-this article implies there's is something wrong with you for having an honest emotion. Good grief. Being humble, kind and considerate of others is NOT a sign of some form of mental illness. Report


About The Author

Melissa Rudy
Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.