How to Know If You Apologize Too Much

Jordan Brown

This is something I struggled with for a long time.

I always felt like I needed to apologize to people to make them happy and to make them like me again.

It was a nauseating feeling considering whether I actually did something wrong.

It tore me apart inside.

But, almost always, I defaulted to apologizing so that I could feel better and that others could feel better.

Now I know it's not the best approach to apologize all the time.

If you apologize too much, a number of bad things happen.

Because there's a time to apologize, and there's a time to let the feelings hang in the air.

And now's the time to know the difference between the two.

If You Feel Anxious About Apologizing


This guy? He's probably apologizing too much.


Let's see if you can relate to this.

You've done something at work or at home, and others are unhappy. You don't even think it's that big of a deal.

In fact, what you did follows every rule, policy, or procedure, and every unspoken and spoken agreement, between you and the other people involved.

Still, feelings are hurt, and you feel like you caused it.

Should you apologize?

Or how about this one.

You made a comment to a coworker or friend that happened to trigger something they feel very insecure about.

You had no ill will whatsoever when you made the comment, but now the damage has been done.

The tension is palpable.

Should you apologize for that?

Maybe words of wisdom can help:

It's too late to apologize, it's too late
I said it's too late to apologize, it's too late, whoa
-OneRepublic

Ok, maybe not. Moving on...

Apologizing to someone you've hurt seems like a no-brainer.

On paper, and when you're a child being guided by others, it's almost a given that you need to apologize. It's just how it is.

But when you become an adult yourself, you realize that the world doesn't quite work that way.

Apologies live in a no-man's land of if's, maybe's, and I don't know's.

And now I'm here to tell you that you shouldn't always apologize when you've hurt someone.

"I Apologize Too Much" - When To Apologize


Bold move, but closer to the truth than you might think...



Keep this in mind: there are no definitive rules.

The land of relationships and your own mental health lives in a shifting, cloudy landscape.

The best decision will always combine what's commonly accepted with what's best practice for mental health with what you know about yourself and the environment you're in.

That being said, there's something very important to remember, and it's this:

You are not responsible for other people's happiness. You're not.

People who live with anxiety, or depression, or many other very common mental health challenges often feel that they are personally responsible for keeping the peace for ALL people.

I know I've felt this way many times in my life.

But I'm going to let you in on secret.

People don't see you as the savior of their happiness. Other people don't care about you. They care about themselves.

I don't mean this in a negative, ruin-your-day kind of way. I'm just pointing out reality.

For most people--except perhaps the rare enlightened being--the world is all about them.

So if you apologize, or if you don't apologize, or if you say the right thing or don't--it really doesn't matter and will soon be forgotten anyway.

Don't worry. I'm alright. I'm not going through a rough time. I'm not getting all pessimistic on you now.

But I am speaking from decades of studying human behavior. I've always been fascinated by other people.

And there is great power in NOT apologizing.

Let me tell you why before you go off on your merry way.

How to Not Apologize Too Much- The Power of the Not-Apology

Not apologizing is a superpower because it lets the feelings marinate.

One, it gives you time to step back and consider if you actually did something truly malicious to someone else.

Two, it forces the other people involved to consider their role, and it gives them the opportunity to consider if they are the ones who did something wrong. Often, they will step forward with an apology instead.

When I apologized all the time, I became the one who was responsible for others. I thought I was being helpful, but I realized, most of the time, I was simply excusing other people's bad behavior just so I could feel better about myself.

When I stopped apologizing, it actually made people respect me more. I was no longer seen as such a pushover, as someone who could be taken advantage of at a moment's notice.

Because, when push comes to shove, there are things that you just shouldn't stand for.

Because, at the end of the day, you are not responsible for another person's happiness.

You're responsible for your own behavior.

Become an expert at analyzing your own role.

There will still be times when you need to apologize.

That's just part of being a flawed human.

But it's not as often as you think.

The not-apology can be a powerful tool.

It's your responsibility to learn how to use it.