The myth of saying sorry for no reason is one of the most common in the western world.
It’s an insidious form of rationalization that dominates conversations and fills personal journals everywhere, and it will only improve your life in the long run.
Most of us will apologize for reasons we can’t remember.
A little while ago I apologized to my wife for taking too long to get ready. In my mind, the conversation went something like this:
Me: “What’s taking you so long?”
Christy: “I’m making my hair look better.”
Me: “Okay. Well, I need to pick up something for dinner. Can you hurry up?”
Christy: “No. I’m just doing my hair. I’ll be out in a couple of minutes.”
Then we woke up and realized that we had actually been having a very lengthy conversation and I had been late getting home because my little ones were bickering and it took longer to deal with them than it did to get ready.
Although it may seem like I should have made up an excuse, the truth is that that moment of not knowing how or why I had apologized is what made the apology sincere.
Here’s the deal. We are constantly analyzing and reassessing every situation to find a reason to apologize for something.
Why do we apologize for everything? We ask ourselves that question before just about every word that comes out of our mouths.
“Why did I just apologize?”
“Why did I just say that?”
“Why did I have to interrupt?”
“Why do I feel guilty now for being defensive?”
“Why did I do that to my kid?”
“Why did I do that?”
“Why did I get angry?”
“Why did I do that?”
“Why did I hurt that person?”
The only thing we should be apologizing for is lack of maturity.
I believe that every person on the planet has an explanation as to why he or she did or said something.
It’s because you were hungry.
Because your heart was tired.
Because you were scared.
Because you were hurt.
It’s because you have deep emotional scars.
It’s because you feel responsible.
It’s because you took the first action and ran with it.
It’s because you don’t know what else to do.
The people who ask questions like these all have valid reasons for their actions.
Let’s face it, most people in the world do not behave perfectly.
We all make mistakes. It’s the way of the world. Sometimes we’re wrong and we apologize.
It’s okay. You’re allowed to apologize. If a 10-year-old hit you in the face, you would apologize.
What’s wrong with that? There’s nothing to apologize for.
However, people always want to apologize for no reason.
“Why am I apologizing?”
“Why did I say that?”
“Why am I so anxious?”
It seems like the more rational you are with others, the more likely you will be to apologize.
So don’t apologize for any reason. Just do what you know you should do. Be rational and do what you know you should do.
That is until I became an entrepreneur and started my own company. As soon as I had money to spend, I started to worry a lot–mostly about my company.
I found myself apologizing for things like sending emails too early in the morning, and the fact that I sent something out last minute–things I had never even considered doing before.
This was completely foreign behavior for me. To me, I was never apologetic–even when I knew I had done something wrong.
But as time went on, I realized the gravity of apologizing, and what it meant to me to be an effective leader.
I became an apologetic father, a bad employee, and a lack of a good friend.
I thought I should be a better leader, and that I should show my employees how important they were. I thought I was helping them.
In reality, I was causing them stress. I was making them feel bad for the mistakes that they were making.
This was an epiphany, and I’ve never been the same since.
After that experience, I realized that as an entrepreneur, I didn’t need to apologize for anything. I knew who I was, and that was enough.
But now that I’ve been in business for a while, I understand that I do have to occasionally apologize. I can’t just ignore the fact that I made a mistake.
But in doing so, I should always show remorse, and be as genuine and sincere as possible.
Once I’ve apologized, I have to go a step further and remind my team that I understand what I’ve done wrong and that I am working to make sure it never happens again.
It’s been over a year since I stopped apologizing for things I didn’t even know I did. And I can honestly say that it’s because of the way I approached the situation.
I was upfront with my mistake, and I admitted that I had done something wrong. I wanted them to know that I understood why they were upset.
I knew the exact moment that my actions created a problem for them.
Then, I didn’t just stop at the apology–I went a step further and immediately started doing something about it.
I took immediate action, and this has led to a much smoother working relationship.