This morning I read a great article in Time entitled, “Why Everyone Is So Rude Right Now,” and it reminded me of a post I started (but never published) about how no one says “I’m sorry” anymore. At the time I wrote it, I thought maybe it was just my overly sensitive reaction to a minor offense … definitely not worth exposing my deep central nervous system sensitivity to physical, emotional, or social stimuli. After all, I’m a pretty private person!
But ya know … I don’t think it’s just me.
To be clear, I’m not referring to Sorry Syndrome apologies, “the overwhelming need to apologize for every little thing, even if the individual apologizing isn’t to blame or if the event they’re apologizing for is completely out of their control.” I know I don’t have to apologize to the sofa for bumping into it, and my therapy sessions on this are coming along nicely, thank you very much. Nor am I referring to the fact that women apologize more than men. Which … don’t get me started.
Nope, I’m talking about situations in which a clear injury, error, or other clash has occurred, but rather than apologize, the other party either ignores the situation or obstinately reinforces their assault. “I can’t believe you’re upset because I just ran that red light and almost hit you. So now I’m going to turn around and intentionally run into you and really give you something to be upset about.”
Sounds a lot like “You better stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Ugh!
What’s going on here?
It’s interesting that a “should I apologize?” query brings up MILLIONS of articles on the Internet. And telling that the first of those results is “11 Times You Should Not Say “Sorry” (And What To Say Instead).”
Some other examples are:
- “Why You Should Stop Apologizing and Start Saying Thank You Instead”
- “The Two Words You Should Start Saying Instead of “I’m Sorry“
- “Are you a chronic apologizer? Why saying ‘I’m sorry’ too much sets you back”
- “When “I’m Sorry” Is Too Much. Do you over-apologize?”
- “Stop saying ‘I’m sorry.’ Research says it makes others think less of you—here’s what successful people do instead”
This alone wouldn’t be a problem, as most of these articles explain (later in the text) that they are referring to situations in which an apology really isn’t appropriate but wholeheartedly recommend an apology when a clear offense has been made. The problem is that on average, eight out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only two out of 10 will read the rest. That means that eight out of ten people have now learned that if you want to be a successful person you should stop apologizing and say “thank you” instead. Hmmm … (and by the way, congratulations if you’ve read this far and realize this post isn’t just about Keanu Reeves!)
But clearly there’s something more endemic going on here than a bunch of really confused people who have to “google” whether or not they should apologize.
Guy Winch, a licensed psychologist whose three TED Talks have been viewed over 20 million times (and I’m not even exaggerating this time!!), and author of three science-based self-help books that have been translated into 26 languages, offers an explanation in his article, “We all know people who just can’t apologize — well, here’s why.” “People who cannot apologize often have such deep feelings of low self-worth that their fragile egos cannot absorb the blow of admitting they were wrong” Winch explains. “So their defense mechanisms kick in — at times, unconsciously — and they may externalize any blame and even dispute basic facts to ward off the threat of having to lower themselves by offering an apology.”
Similarly, in “Saying I’m Sorry – 4 Guidelines for an effective apology,” Richard B. Joelson DSW, LCSW writes, “It seems that some people experience an apology as a sign of weakness. Interestingly, when asked if they view it that way when the apology comes from another, they do not see it as a weakness at all, but rather the “right” or “responsible” thing to do. Remarkably, some will say it is a sign of strength or maturity when the apology is offered by the other person, but still feel that it is an unacceptable admission of defeat—or weakness—when the apology is theirs to give to someone else.”
So how are you supposed to react in these situations? Winch suggests, “the best way to do this is to accept their behavior — annoying as it is — and realize they’re simply psychologically incapable of apologizing. What’s more, they’re not going to change. Practicing acceptance can help you disengage from arguments with them and help you limit your feelings of frustration, anger and hurt.”
But for many of us “just too sensitive” people, it’s hard to reconcile the damage done with the necessity to just accept the behavior of the person who caused it. I admit, that’s a tough one for me. Disengaging has never been my forté, and I never learned the words to “Let It Go.”
But (here, finally, comes the Keanu Reeves reference) while I think I’m as badass as John Wick and don’t want to back down, I’d also love to think that, at least for myself, I can be “The One who would bring peace” like Neo, and has a second chance to live up to my potential like Shane Falco.
Yes, I aspire to be every character Keanu Reeves has ever played, and yes, I thought Diane Keaton was INSANE to choose Harry Sanborn over Julian Mercer. But I digress. The point I’m rambling on about and will eventually make is that I just love that a guy who can play a legendary hitman who once killed three men with a pencil … “a fucking pencil” … is strong enough to also say, “I don’t want to be a part of a world where being kind is a weakness.” And if Keanu can say that, then so can I.
So, I think I’ve found a solution to my “weakness.” From now on, I’m going to proudly wear my “I’m too sensitive” badge as a reminder of my INNER John Wick, tough enough, mature enough, and responsible enough to recognize it takes an incredibly sensitive person to understand that rudeness and bullying are the real indications of weakness.