The “sorry” sydnrome

Ramya Herman

By Ramya Herman

Managing Editor of Global Persepectives


Sorry. That word seems to be a recurring phrase amongst women, especially in sports. For every bump, bruise, or blunder, there’s an apology that makes its way past mouth guards and game faces to excuse the inevitable aggression of the game.

While this may not be an issue in an all-women interaction, these inclinations to concern and responsibility for one’s actions manifest themselves very differently in mixed-gender social settings, especially in places of business or male-dominated environments.

It doesn’t seem like attempting to take responsibility for one’s actions would be a negative characteristic, but things are often not what they seem. Studies have shown that compulsive apologizing, especially when it is unwarranted, is seen as a sign of weakness and often leads to a lack of respect for the apologizer. This makes it harder for women to make demands and take up authoritative roles.

The word “sorry” has stolen potential pay-raises and promotions of women on innumerous occasions, conversely making  women who do take it upon themselves to stand their ground come across as  bitter, rude, or tightly wound. When it comes from a woman, there is a stigma surrounding a firm authoritative figure and negative effects of choosing a more meek and cautious path. It becomes a question of identifying the cause and navigating a course of action that can be taken to do away with this plague of excessive courtesy.

What makes women more inclined to  apologize  isn’t a lack of consideration from men, but rather their possession of a lower behavioral threshold and an unawareness of how these word choices shape their reputation. Women see more things are deserving of an apology than men do. It’s a social pattern ingrained in the brains of most women, which then begs the question: what can be done to fix things?

The two best ways to combat these unbeneficial habits are to be more self aware and change the vocabulary applied. Notice how many times an apology is issued throughout the day, and then try to limit that, monitoring when it is necessary and when it becomes excessive. The second way is to change the vocabulary used. Instead of “I’m sorry,” try “I understand the issue,  next time I’ll…”. There won’t be any feelings of regret in attempting to apply these techniques and create a stronger presence.