Opinion

Excessive apologizing won’t win respect

By the time I had to tutor on the day after my oral surgery, I had not recovered quite as much as I’d hoped. I didn’t just look like a chipmunk – I looked like a whole colony of chipmunks had crawled inside my cheek and died there. When the student walked into the Academic Resource Center, I pried open my jaws and said, “I’m sorry, but I just had oral surgery.”

Wait. A line of throbbing stitches ran along my right gum, and a blob of drool hesitated behind my lower lip – but I had done nothing wrong. So why was I apologizing?

The word “apology” describes a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure, but most of our daily apologies don’t address any faults at all. Emails to professors often contain the words “sorry to bother you.” When asking to borrow a pencil, a person may apologize for “being annoying,” or when raising a hand in class, begin with the words, “sorry if this sounds stupid, but …”

These apologies are meant to curry favor, spoken for the same reason a puppy will roll over to expose his vulnerable underbelly in front of a larger dog. But such submissiveness won’t win you any respect; instead, you’ll just look weak. And in social interactions, confidence counts.

Apologies may seem like the oil that lets a conversation flow, and to some extent, they are. Having a conscience, and being willing to own up to mistakes certainly help maintain functional social relationships. But in excess, and dripped in the wrong place, this oil will gum up, clump together and end up doing more harm than good.

It’s not out of line to ask a professor for help. Lending out a pencil is usually not a huge inconvenience. And by beginning your sentence with, “I’m sorry if this is dumb,” you’ve already predisposed listeners to disregard your opinion.

Next time the words “I’m sorry” are about to fly out of your mouth, try to catch yourself. Look a person in the eyes and tell them what you think. Go ahead and ask for that pencil. Mumble to your tutee, “Yes, I had oral surgery, but I’m still here to help.” And remember that being polite and being sorry are not the same thing.

Alexa Langen is a sophomore majoring in creative writing.

February 23, 2014

Reporters

Alexa Langen


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Closer Frankie Bartow stared into the Panthers’ dugout immediately after fanning the final batter of ...

Go ahead. Try telling former University of Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya that his critics say he gets ...

University of Miami redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Allison, who left the Hurricanes football pro ...

A six-pack of UM nuggets on a Tuesday: • UM receiver Dionte Mullins’ final statement this spring - i ...

The quarterback race at the University of Miami just got a lot tighter. Redshirt freshman Jack Allis ...

The period of the first 100 days in office is a telling gauge for a president's full term in th ...

UM students, staff and faculty join the worldwide march to end men’s violence against women. ...

Greek Week at the University of Miami is committed to raising money and awareness for United Cerebra ...

Carlos Bustamante, a Presidential Distinguished Scholar, kicked off his series of lectures about gen ...

Edward Abraham, M.D., has been named Dean of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Med ...

HurricaneSports.com caught up with Miami's current hardwood ProCanes. Here's where you can ...

A trio of Canes are represented in the polls, with Lomacki at No. 64 in the ITA Singles rankings and ...

The Miami women's tennis team has continued its rise up the ITA national rankings, checking in ...

Romy Gonzalez scored the go-ahead run in the ninth inning, and Miami held on for an 8-7 win over hos ...

University of Miami men's tennis team is set to start ACC Championship play Wednesday in Rome, ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.