Saying “I’m sorry” can become such a habit that it dilutes the actual intended message. It’s an everyday reflexive utterance that’s unnecessary if you haven’t actually done anything egregious. Chronic over-apologizing is not respectful to yourself or the situation. It is the opposite of self-compassion. In my practice I often tell clients I’m going to charge them an extra dollar every time they say ‘I’m sorry,’ a mindfulness exercise.
Some alternatives that say what you really mean:
“Thank you for waiting for me” instead of saying “I’m sorry I’m late.”
*Ask for clarification.
“I am confused. I don’t understand what you just said.”
*Make a request.
Don’t apologize or say you’re bothering people. You can ask, “is now a good time to ask you… “ Or, “When is a good time to talk?”
*Express your desire.
Say: “I would like to see us work together on this project”, rather than “I’m sorry we don’t work together on many projects”.
*Acknowledge an invite or offer.
“That is such a generous invitation,” rather than “I’m so sorry I’m not going to be able to make it to the dinner party.”
*Practice empathy rather than offering apology.
Say: “That sounds like a really difficult situation.”
*Disagree without apologizing.
“Let me give you a different perspective” or “in my opinion…”
*Ask for feedback or advice.
“What could I have done differently or improved?”
*Take a pause.
Take a deep breath before the apology automatically emerges.
Interestingly, NOT being able to apologize appropriately also comes from a place of lack of self-compassion. Two sides of the same coin.
Also see Why Some People Cannot Apologize.