In a conversation, if I were to be speaking to my friend or my girlfriend one on one about something which I found entertaining or enjoyable and they responded shortly, my emotions kicked in. I would instantly begin to wonder why they weren’t as happy as I were, and assume it was my own doing. A short “lmao” compared to their usually “omg asdhjsf” wasn’t right. Being someone who has a fear of upsetting others without knowing what I had done, I would apologize immediately. They would then ask “for what?” or “why?”
I didn’t know.
And that was the problem, wasn't it? Why apologize for something which you have no clue why you’re apologizing? I suppose I used it as a filler word, much like a speaker may use “um” or “uh” in a presentation. Constantly, I would apologize for I didn’t know what, and constantly I would be greeted with “it’s fine!”, “you’re fine”, and eventually the all telling, “i don’t know why you’re apologizing.”
It wasn’t long before my girlfriend started to show more and more signs of frustration with me, which I understood greatly. I would get annoyed too, after all, and I’m not just saying that. It had gotten to the point in which we had almost broken up due to this. While I knew it was a harmless tick, she made a point. My real apologies were muddled in with the messy, questionable apologies. It had gotten so bad as to drive us near the point of a break up, with her stress and my constant “I’m sorries”, even as pity as in “I’m sorry you’re sick”. Now, to some this may seem as a flaw on her part, but she made perfect sense. There was no line that differentiated my real apologies from the nothings, and it needed to stop. I needed to break the filler.
So I did.
Since before New Years, I have greatly cut back on my apologies. No more “I’m sorry I’m talking so much”, “I’m sorry you’re sick”, “I’m sorry, I was doing this.” None of it. And it has helped so, so much.
By cutting back on my apologies, I have learned to communicate better and not rely on the crutch that was “I’m sorry.” The key is to delete “I’m sorry” and continue on with the sentence, then delete those words before sending them. It helps to communicate better without taking fault for something out of my control, something which has nothing to do with me or my being.
It has helped me to converse better, not just communicate. Like above, “I’m sorry you’re sick” turns into “you’re sick.” Well that doesn’t carry on the conversation, not one bit, does it? You try to respond to it, go on. By deleting the “I’m sorry” from my vocabulary, I have to elaborate or come up with a question for the other and contribute further. “You’re sick” turns into “well what's wrong?”, “what do you think it is?”, “what are the symptoms?” It would never have gotten that far with “I’m sorry,” I would have only been met with “”it’s okay!”, “it’s not your fault!” and how self centered was that?
I have learned acceptance. Talking too much is still a fear of mine, I would never want to bother someone with being the overbearing friend, or being too talkative, but I no longer assume the reason their mood changes is due to me. Especially in the world of text. If the other party’s mood changes, I resist the apology and continue on with my own words. If it continues, I will ask the other if they’re okay. Usually, it is met with a “yeah” (or a preferred and more enthusiastic “yeah!”) and I would then explain why I came to the conclusion to ask. If it is not alright with the other, I will offer my shoulder and be there for them if they choose; but I won’t apologize until I know it is something in my control.
It took a lot of willpower, but I’m happy I did it. I’m thankful she was my wake up call, because since apologizing our communication has gotten a lot better, and my mistakes are fixed a lot easier because she knows I am careful with my words. All it took was one good wake up call before I realized that apologizing too often was a cop out, and those words should be saved for the screw ups and not for the awkward gaps.
I believe Apologies contributed heavily to my socially awkward self, and maybe even my “slight” anxiety. Apologies were just natural, but self control has helped me to refrain and learn more about the other party as opposed to worrying about myself first. Now that I look back on it, the apologies I made were rather selfish, and I could would have been annoyed at the extent my apologies went.
Apologies are meant for genuine mistakes, not small inconveniences or awkward silences, and should be used accordingly, careful to not diminish the meaning.