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

They were way below the radar coming into the 1983 season. And after their 28-3 opening-game loss to ...

In the opening eight minutes on Saturday — and the final seven minutes — FIU looked like a team that ...

The N’Kosi Perry era is here. Whether it’s here to stay is yet to be seen. The fans got what they wa ...

Ten takeaways from UM’s 31-17 win against FIU on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium: ▪ Credit Mark Richt ...

As the Miami Hurricanes started their third series against the FIU Panthers on Saturday afternoon, t ...

Get Out The Vote, a nonpartisan initiative headed by the Division of Student Affairs and the Butler ...

University of Miami Libraries commemorates Banned Books Week with a special event and display. ...

A year after UPup’s founding father met his match, the service club is realizing its goal of becomin ...

UM students, faculty and staff commemorated the five-year anniversary of the Donna E. Shalala Studen ...

Miami’s Turnover Chain inspires copycats, but the U’s turnover prop has a ‘cool factor.’ ...

N'Kosi Perry and a dominant Miami defense led the Hurricanes to a 31-17 victory over the Panthe ...

Estela Perez-Somarriba of the Miami women's tennis team is headed to the championship of one th ...

The Miami women's tennis team posted a 5-2 mark in official matches on the second day of the Mi ...

Freshman Riley Howard continued her incredible start as a Canes cross country runner setting another ...

The University of Miami soccer team is set to host Virginia Tech Sunday at noon at Cobb Stadium. ...

TMH Twitter
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.