I’m not a big one for New Year’s resolutions, or setting intentions or even picking a word or mantra.
Sometimes, however, I set something for myself. I’m not strict about it and I don’t usually make it something terribly difficult. One year it was to get myself to the dentist and I did it. Go me! Another was to stop calling everyone “guys” because, you know, some people aren’t guys and it’s nice to be inclusive.
I don’t normally share these resolution type thingies, like I said, but today I put this year’s one into action. And it was quite hard but felt good. Plus, I bet loads of people, women especially, could benefit from doing the same.
The year of no apologies
I’m doing a year of no apologies. I assume, after a year, it will be my new normal. And I don’t mean no apologies whatsoever. If I do something shitty, or hurt someone, or whatever, of course I’ll apologise. I mean those apologies we make for no reason, out of a sense of misplaced politeness or social obligation. The apologies we don’t mean.
Often, women are conditioned to apologise when they’ve done nothing wrong. Ever wondered why?
One small study showed that women and men apologise at a similar rate, but that women tended to rate perceived infractions more severely than men. In other words, men may well be less likely to realise they’ve even done anything that warrants an apology in the first place.
Too many apologies
In my life, I have apologised to mannequins for bumping them, poles for walking into them and even once, a charity guide dog statue thing that I stubbed my toe on. These apologies need to stop because they make me look like a dickhead. But I think they often come from the same place. This sense that we must be sorry for taking up space, that any unintended contact is our fault, that others are more important than us.
For example, during the hideous Christmas shopping period, a man charged past me and knocked my handbag and my first response was to say sorry to him. A few weeks ago I was walking down some stairs at work. A group of 4 was walking up, taking up the whole width of the stairwell. And yet, I apologised as I tried to squeeze past while they ignored me. Ugh!!
Sorry, not sorry
It’s actually a really hard habit to break. It’s so ingrained that I sometimes don’t even realise I’ve done it until after the fact. It’s almost second nature. Just last week, I was on the train and sat on a 3 seater with one guy on it. I sat at the other end, apologising reflexively. Break it down: I’m sorry to sit on the same bench seat as you, even though it doesn’t impact or bother you at all. I’m sorry I take up space.
And saying sorry when you are not sorry and should not be sorry can effect your confidence. You’re swallowing what you want to say, sometimes accepting someone else’s bad behaviour. You’re reiterating to yourself that you can’t expect to be treated respectfully. And I’m done with that!
Today, the first successful day of no apologies
Today, I dropped off a prescription at the pharmacy then ducked to the supermarket. I went back to the chemist to get my prescription and joined a line. It was just about my turn when the pharmacist called an elderly man over to ask a question. “Sorry,” he said, “I just need to speak to this gentleman but we’ll be right with you.” I said that was fine and stood aside. When he was done, he walked to the back but called the other pharmacist over. “Who was next?” new pharmacist asked. I stepped forward and an older man tried to sort of awkwardly jump in front of me. He didn’t speak to me even though he almost landed on my foot.
“I was next.” He stared and said “Oh, no, I was…”
“No. I was at the counter. You were behind me.”
I turned and gave my name and collected my tablets. When I went to leave, the man was staring at me. “That was rude…” he started to say.
Rude? I don’t think so.
He was telling me I was rude because he tried to push in ahead of me. I’d been standing in the line for several minutes. He had been behind me the whole time he was in the line. This man didn’t ask if he could go ahead of me (who knows, I may have said yes!) and had just tried to dive in front as I stepped to the counter but, apparently, I was rude?
Would it have sounded better to him if I’d been apologetic and excessively polite? “Excuse me, I think I was actually next, terribly sorry…” Probably. Better still, I could have just fumed silently and let him go ahead.
But this whole no apologies thing is about realising people are responsible for their own emotions and behaviours, me included.
It’s very poor form to try to push ahead of someone in a line. He wasn’t upset that I’d “been rude” to him. He was pissed because a- his effort to take my place in the queue didn’t work and b- I’d stood my ground which made him feel embarrassed. He’d behaved poorly and been called on it. And I had to realise I had every right to be assertive and not apologetic.
So when he said “That was rude”, I agreed. I said “Yes, it was. You had no right to try to push ahead of me.” And his jaw dropped. I left.