Have you ever apologized for something that you simply did not do?
Taking accountability for things you may have done wrong is an important part of learning and growing. What about the people who seem to be constantly apologizing for whether or not they did something wrong?
There are many reasons why people feel the need to say “sorry” all the time, and not all of them have something to do with wrongdoing.
Here is what we learned about the psychology of apologizing too much:
Table of Contents
1. They Have Low Self Esteem
People who are less sure of themselves can sometimes feel like a lot of things that happen around them are somehow their fault.
This means that no matter how small or trial the problem may seem, the other person apologizes as if they are taking accountability for it.
Along with the constant apologies, you will often see other signs of nervous energy like nail biting, shaking, or even smiling too much.
It is important to remember that when anxious people constantly apologize, they look to you to resolve their guilt, even if they have nothing to feel guilty about.
Giving your anxious friends comfort in knowing they are okay and didn’t do anything wrong is very important and can be as easy as saying, “don’t worry about it” or “it’s okay.”
People with low self-esteem want to appear friendly and sympathetic to make people believe they are nice, which may contradict their feelings about themselves.
So, while it can be annoying to hear “sorry” repeatedly without any cause, remember that it is coming from a genuinely good place.
2. They May Be Feeling Guilty
When someone repeatedly says ” sorry, it can signify a guilty conscience.
Sometimes when someone feels guilty about something they did and don’t quite dare to take any ownership of it, they will take other opportunities to apologize for smaller things in hopes that it will fix the bigger problem.
Most notably, the thing they may want to apologize for may be completely unknown to you.
So, apologizing for insignificant things is their attempt to take accountability for something else. The hope is that, eventually, they will work up the courage to resolve the bigger underlining issue.
If someone is constantly saying “sorry” for things that are not their fault or that big deal, don’t be afraid to pry further.
This can help to loosen up the other person in hopes of finding the real source of the problem, which is a great way to strengthen the bond between friends.
3. They Are Afraid Of You
Sometimes when someone is constantly apologizing, it has very little to do with them and much more to do with you.
While it is important to try to forgive and forget, some people are incapable of letting things go. This means that after someone has owned up to their responsibility and taken accountability for wrongdoing, they didn’t have quite the reaction they expected.
It is important to remember that you can’t control how other people react. You can only control how you choose to react.
That being said, people learn a lot about you, specifically when it comes to social situations, by the way you have reacted to people in the past.
This can cause people to change the way they communicate and treat you overall. Suppose you have been known to have very strong emotional responses to setbacks or don’t always take apologies in with an open heart.
In that case, people can be hesitant when communicating with you.
People who are under stress are sometimes seen as “time bombs.” So, someone saying “sorry” to you often may try to avoid putting you on edge to prevent a big blowup.
4. Some People Have Unhealthy Boundaries
People who talk too much or apologize when nothing is wrong tend to have unhealthy boundaries.
This means that they might not have the best socialization skills, so communicating with someone in a healthy way can be difficult.
I am a big believer in setting boundaries with people in your life, and the only way to do this is to be completely upfront and honest about what you want.
To set healthy boundaries with a friend, you must be honest about how you want to communicate and what feels right for you. Not everyone has to agree with the boundaries that you set.
So, be prepared to walk away from a relationship if you feel these boundaries won’t be respected.
However, it is important to remember that constant apologies are often a sign of trauma. So the other person might not even be aware of this trauma response, so it is important to address this problem with some form of compassion.
After all, the way we communicate is often taught to us at a young age, so to break this cycle, you have to do so with an understanding of where that person has come from.
5. They May Be Suffering From Mental Illness
These days, the stigma surrounding mental illness has started to lift.
People are much more open and understanding about how certain mental problems affect communication and socialization.
As mentioned, apologizing often has a lot to do with generalized anxiety. It isn’t only anxiety that makes people say “sorry” for things they shouldn’t be taking responsibility for.
Along with anxiety, the person may be suffering from OCD. OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is a mental illness that completely controls how a person behaves and interacts with other people.
Along with rituals, people suffering from OCD may have to say certain things to calm themselves down. Because people with OCD need to control things, apologizing is a form of controlling how people view them and a narrative for which they may feel responsible.
It is important to remember that people who suffer from mental illnesses like OCD have very little control over how they respond to certain social situations.
So, while it may be annoying to have someone say “sorry” all the time, it is important to keep in mind that they may be suffering from something underlining that you are unaware of.