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Column: Don’t apologize, just fix it

Photo by Madalyn Mirallegro.

I’m a very apologetic person. “I’m sorry” is one of my most used phrases. It’s become such a reflex for me that I often apologize when I don’t need to. However, I didn’t realize how much I said it until my senior year of high school during rehearsals for our production of “Footloose.”

After reading a line or doing the blocking in a way that made the director pause rehearsal, I apologized. Even though I didn’t agree with his directing style, or even like him as a person, his words afterward have stuck with me for three years.

He told me, “Don’t apologize, just fix it.”

Now, I’m not saying that you should never take accountability for your actions, but rather be conscientious of why you’re apologizing and which people you’re saying it to.

A lot of times, I’m apologizing for something I’m not directly responsible for. This mentality can be pretty unhealthy since every time I say “I’m sorry,” it puts another guilt-filled weight on my shoulders.

While “don’t apologize, just fix it” makes for a good aphorism you might find on a mug or a laptop sticker, it doesn’t give much in the way of practical solutions. Here are some things that have worked for me.

Before you apologize, think about if the thing you’re apologizing for is something that you caused. This strategy can also help you to think specifically about why you’re apologizing. Keep in mind if the person you’re apologizing to deserves an apology. If you can answer both questions with “yes,” say you’re sorry and work to make it right.

Apologies only mean something when a person corrects their behavior to match what they say. Plus, if you’re spending all day saying sorry, you won’t have the time or the energy to fix it.

If you’re unsure about how to fix it, ask the person or someone close to them. Depending on the emotional intensity of the situation, you may want to wait and give it some time before diving back in. However, don’t let it go unresolved for too long, so set a reminder to talk it out before time gets away from you.

Of course, the alternative is never doing anything wrong, and therefore never having to say you’re sorry. Isn’t that so much less stressful?

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