As Paul Weller sang, stop apologising for the things you’ve never done.
Apparently, the words “I’m sorry” were uttered twice in the first three minutes of a recent episode of Coronation Street and the total number of times these two words were said during the soap last year is 952,007!
I don’t know how true this statistic is – and I’m not about to go and trawl through a year’s worth of Corrie for research purposes – but the one thing I do know is that we are a nation of people who can’t stop apologising.
Being polite and apologetic is something we Brits have ingrained into us.
So much so that it has become a gut reaction and it comes out involuntarily even when we haven’t done anything to be sorry about.
I catch myself doing it all the time automatically and cringe every time the words fly out of my mouth.
The other day, I was walking through town when a woman clumsily barged into me, knocking my bags in the process and trampled all over my feet and I found myself blurting out: “Sorry” without skipping a heartbeat.
What on earth was I apologising for? “I’m dreadfully sorry that you’re walking around with your eyes closed and have rudely walked into me and squashed my toes with your big fat feet.”
I even find myself profusely excusing myself when I bump into inanimate objects (which happens quite frequently). “Oh, sorry doorway! I didn’t see you there. I hope I didn’t hurt you in any way.”
I once even apologised in a restaurant when the waiter brought me the wrong dish and found myself saying: “I’m sorry, this isn’t what I ordered.”
A friend once told me to stop apologising and my instant reaction was to say: “I’m sorry, I’ll try to stop doing it so much.”
Being big enough to admit you are wrong and saying you are sorry is a good thing.
But there is such a thing as over-apologising and it is something too many of us are guilty of.
Apologising after making a mistake is one thing but saying “sorry” frequently in a Tourette’s like manner is a step too far.
Being polite and apologising are two different things and we need to learn to separate them more.
How many times have you walked up to a group of people who are mid-conversation and greeted them with the words: “Sorry to interrupt, but ...”
You’re actually sorry as otherwise you wouldn’t be interrupting them. So why feel the need to apologise?
Why not just go the whole hog and say: “Oh, I am so terribly sorry for interrupting! Here, have one of my kidneys as compensation. I won’t bother you again. Ever.”
It transpires that our need to over-apologise stems from childhood when we were taught to be polite and respect our elders and those in authority.
However, over-apologisers carry the need for politeness too far and in their efforts to keep the peace, they tend to say sorry as automatically as saying “Hello” or “Goodbye”.
Of course, there are always those who take things the other way and think saying sorry is a collateral damage limitation word.
These are the people who say things that are often rude, offensive or bang out of order and then say: “Sorry if I caused any offence” as if that makes everything all right.
However – there are some things that people – especially women - should never apologise for.
Don’t apologise for someone else’s bad day or for being happy.
If you’re on a high and everything in your life is great, don’t feel guilty and start apologising if your best mate has had a bad day at work. Saying you’re sorry for your own good day won’t fix her bad one. Just be there for her and listen to her let off steam.
And most importantly, never, EVER, apologise for ordering dessert. As in, “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to have that chocolate fudge cake.”
You’re a grown woman and can eat what you want. Order the cake and be proud!
Well, I’m terribly sorry folks, but that’s all I’ve got time for this week.