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

It was a good day for the Miami Hurricanes basketball team. They moved up to No. 6 in the AP Top 25 ...

Erykah Davenport and Shaneese Bailey made key plays back-to-back late in the game and four players s ...

1. MARLINS: Jeter's Fish trade Gordon. Stanton next?: While others spend -- like the Angels to ...

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Thursday: ▪ With the first ever early signing period just two we ...

University of Miami coach Mark Richt and Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst sat on a stage poolside at the ...

Daniela Deu was drawn to both architecture and urbanism, believes architecture can change communitie ...

Canes Basketball player development assistant will graduate with MSED in Sport Administation. ...

UOnline graduate will earn his M.S. in Health Informatics ...

Seeking a college experience within a diverse community, this graduate found her home away from home ...

Graduating with Comedic Timing ...

Hurricanes earn highest ranking since March 2013. ...

Walker IV recorded a career-high 26 points, seven rebounds in the win over Boston U. ...

The University of Miami women's basketball team earned an impressive 65-54 win over No. 20/23 K ...

Miami senior wide receiver Braxton Berrios, a double major in finance and entrepreneurship, was name ...

After its longest break of the season thus far, the University of Miami women's basketball team ...

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 in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.