A Cup of Coffee – The Sorry Syndrome – Do you have it?

Welcome back! Last week, we talked about Geocaching as a form of exercise. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.

This week, we are going to talk about a word many of us use too much. Sorry. Have you ever thought to yourself that maybe you are overusing the word, or wondering why you overuse the word? Is it good manners? Is it a form of submission that was taught to you? Is it straight up manipulation?

The good news is, the term “Sorry Syndromeisn’t a medical term. It’s listed in the Urban Dictionary like this:

This type of communication typically comes from individuals who are in the habit of making excuses for their actions. They know that they have a commitment they haven’t met, and, instead of facing the music, they choose to say ‘I’m sorry‘ to skirt the issue.

I’m sorry I didn’t show up on time.”

I’m sorry I didn’t call.

I’m sorry I didn’t get that done.”

I’m sorry I didn’t clean my room.”

I’m sorry I didn’t do my homework.

We use this word so often, that it starts to lose its meaning. Are we really sorry, or are we just trying to get out of an uncomfortable situation?

I recently agreed to meet with a friend for coffee. I was supposed to be there at 11, but it was my day off and I had gone back to bed (big mistake) and only just woke up at 11. I texted her and told her I was running late.

On the drive into town, I thought about what I was going to say to her. Should I say, “sorry I’m late“, forcing her to say, “that’s ok, no worries” (when it really wasn’t ok), or should I step up and just say, “thank you for waiting for me, that was very kind of you” and give credit where credit was due?

I opted to say thank you. And you know what? It felt really good. It’s amazing what a few words can do to change an awkward situation into a moment of gratitude.

We say we are sorry in situations that don’t even warrant it. Have you ever stopped to consider what it means to say “I’m sorry“? Did you actually hurt the other person in some way, either by accident or on purpose? That would be the time to say I’m sorry. Did you turn around and hurt them again in that same manner? Sorry doesn’t apply the second time around, so don’t bother. At that point, your behaviors have spoken more loudly than your words. You weren’t sorry. You were manipulating them.

Sorry” can be a very powerful word when used correctly. It can also lose it’s meaning entirely when overused or used in the wrong context. It can even cause you to feel guilty or anxious if you overuse the word.

Mary (name changed to protect her privacy) confessed to me, “I say sorry so much that it’s almost become a lie. I’m not sorry most of the time, I just want the person who I offended to leave me alone. I guess I’m selfish, I don’t know. Maybe I overextend myself because I can’t say no…but that just means that I end up letting people down and saying that dreaded word again…’sorry’. I need to just stop. It’s really causing me a lot of anxiety and I feel guilty every single time I let someone down“.

I asked Mary how she would feel using gratitude instead of an apology when something doesn’t work out. She looked thoughtful for a minute and then said, “I don’t understand“. I gave her an example, and we worked through some scenarios where this might apply.

The first she gave me was, “I tell people that I’ll help them do something, like move, then I just don’t show up. When they call me on it, I say, ‘oh, sorry, I forgot’ and it feels awful“. We took that same scenario and played it out in different ways. 1) Just say no. If you know you don’t want to help them move, just say no. 2) If you say yes, follow through. 3) If your bad habit kicks in, don’t say you’re sorry. It cheapens the word. Instead try, “I know…I flaked. Thank you for still being my friend. If the roles were reversed, I’m not so sure I would still be friends with myself“. This not only prevents the friend from having to agree that it’s ok that you are a flake, but it gives Mary the ability to see just how damaging her behaviors are. Having to admit that you aren’t a good friend should give one pause.

The second scenario Mary brought up was apologizing for things that weren’t her’s to apologize for. One example was when someone bumps into her in the grocery store. If the person doing the bumping doesn’t say, “excuse me”, then is it on the person being bumped to apologize? No. It’s not. There’s a lot to be said for saying nothing. Just move on with your life.

At the end of the day, saying I’m sorry is a minor blip in our everyday radar. Most of us are too busy to worry about semantics. But, if saying I’m sorry starts to cause you anxiety, or you feel guilty for how often you are saying it, then the Sorry Syndrome may be something worth discussing with a trusted friend or counselor. There are always reasons why we say and do the things we say and do. Getting to the bottom of your behaviors is the path to change.

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  1. This was such a great post. Many of us are guilty of saying sorry and still exhibiting the same behavior over and over. Words have meaning. Actions are evidence of those words.

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