• Nancy Mendelson

Sorry Not Sorry: Are you apologizing too much?

My grandmother was an awesome singer and dancer. Why she didn’t make a career out of it I’ll never know, but suffice it to say, when it came to singing me to sleep, she was so entertaining that her lively repertoire left me wide awake and cheering for more!

Often, I would get so revved up that she would take my hand, walk me to the middle of my room and we’d dance until I got sleepy; at which point she’d get me back into bed, put my head on her lap, stroke my hair and close the night with a special rendition of “Put the Blame on Mame,” a most unlikely lullaby!


As I later learned, the song was from the classic film noir, “Gilda,” starring a sultry Rita Hayworth, who sings about how women, in the guise of the girl called Mame, have always been the ones to be blamed for almost everything. Perhaps it was the way my grandma sang it that made me feel oddly empowered in a “go ahead and take your best shot” kinda way. Growing up it often felt easier to take the blame and say “sorry”, even when it wasn’t my fault, but I digress.


Last week while at lunch with a friend, she said, “I wish you’d do a column about why so many women assume they’re at fault, and why 'sorry' has become such a reflex response.” Then, the very next day, while listening to hertelier’s own Emily Goldfischer being interviewed on the podcast, No Vacancy Live that same topic came up, and I began to hear my Gramma Edie singing the refrain, “So, you can put the blame on Mame, boys. Put the blame on Mame,” over and over again, until it became an earworm that got stuck in my head and it felt like she was pushing me to write about it and, wait…I’m rambling. Sorry!


Women apologize for everything. What happens when we stop? asks Zoe Fenson in The Week. “I eliminated the word 'sorry' from my vocabulary for a week. I'm in no hurry to bring it back.”


“Don’t apologize for things that are out of your control," writes Forbes contributor, Caroline Castrillon, in her article How Women Can Stop Apologizing and Take Their Power Back. “Whether or not it’s your intention, apologizing excessively can project a poor image to customers, co-workers, and superiors. Curbing the constant need to apologize requires the same strategy as kicking any other habit."

In her article “No, You Don’t Have to Stop Apologizing," in the New York Times, Kristin Wong notes, “A little reframing of how we think about saying sorry is all it takes. When I asked Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics at Georgetown, why some people apologize too much, she said apologizing is a natural part of our language, and the idea of over-apologizing is subjective.”


Subjective indeed. The above articles are just the tip of the Sorry vs Not Sorry iceberg, and I encourage you to form your own conclusions based on your intent and what feels right to you. While the internet offers up hundreds of alternative ways to apologize, my own personal favorites can be found on The Onion’s, Ways To Apologize Without Saying Sorry Or take my grandma’s advice and "Put the Blame on Mame!"