I did it! I went for a week without any unnecessary apologies. And I didn’t even die! I think it helped that I’ve been working on this for a while--if I tried to stop when I was still at peak apologizing level, I might have exploded. But I still learned some good things.
Ironically, I had the hardest time not apologizing to Lisa about something to do with this blog series. I was editing Lisa’s piece, and I thought the way she expressed something made my earlier article seem wrong. I felt kind of sensitive about it. I made a comment, and she fixed it no problem, but she didn’t respond to me (understandable, as it’s difficult to respond to a comment). But then my imagination started going: “Is she angry with me for interfering with her wording? Does she think I’m oversensitive? Did I come across too intense?”
I desperately wanted to write to her and apologize for potentially being too intense. But as both Mary and Lisa pointed out, that kind of apology is really about me, not about Lisa. I wasn’t trusting that if she was upset, she would tell me. I also wanted to be sure that she didn’t think I was too sensitive, but really, it’s ok if she does. The reality is I am that sensitive, regardless of what she thinks. I don’t need to force her to confess that to me.
So I didn’t apologize, but I e-mailed her and told her I wanted to, which might have been cheating. She told me, “No problem! This is a classic Speckhard girl experience of thinking you're being really intense when you're not. It was no sweat.” It’s nice when your family has all your same issues. That might be what family is for. I’m hoping the next time I encounter this situation with a non-family member, I will remember that I am constitutionally incapable of being intense. And even if I somehow managed to pull it off, I should trust them to let me know.
This week I also discovered another kind of illegitimate apology: The “I’m Sorry I Have Emotions” apology. I was having a conversation about something truly upsetting, and shockingly, I was upset. I almost apologized for being upset, but then I remembered that it was ok to be upset about upsetting things, and I held it in. Go team!
I learned from our Canadian readers (You guys! We have Canadian readers! We're international!) that Canadians apologize all of the time, and that they can't stop, won't stop. I read this very interesting piece on the Canadian apology. Apparently it acts like more of a social lubricant than anything else, and I think it's starting to function more that way in America. It was a good reminder that apologies are a very culturally specific thing, and your mileage may vary.
I still tried to incorporate more “Excuse me”s than “sorry”s into daily life, because I use those "sorry"s as actual apologies for existing. I got on a plane and managed to get into the middle seat without apologizing. Then later in the flight the girl sitting at the window had to get out to the aisle. She said “Sorry,” and I knew she was just saying “excuse me.” A Canadian apology in the wild!**
This is something I will probably be working on for a while. It was fun having Mary and Lisa work through it with me. I learned a lot from them, and I’m excited to put it all into practice over the long haul!
**Speaking of Canadian apologies, here is a video (sadly not great quality) of all the most adorable Canadian apologies in history: