Do You Apologize Too Much?

Do women apologize too much? Do you often say "sorry" without thinking? Inspired by Pantene's "Not Sorry" commercial, The Public Speaker takes a deeper look at the "sorry" situation.

Lisa B. Marshall
4-minute read
Episode #259

Do women apologize too much? That’s a question that was recently posed in a LinkedIn group that I follow.  A new shampoo commercial says yes, they do. What do you think? Do you apologize too much? .

Sorry, do you have a minute?  Sorry, can I ask a stupid question?

The Pantene shampoo commercial called, “Not Sorry," portrays a few different "sorry" scenarios. In the ad, a man sits down next to a woman and bumps her elbow on the armrest. “Sorry,” she says, and moves her arm. A woman rushing to get ready for work says, “sorry,” as she hands the baby to the father. 

When the question of whether women apologize too much was posted on LinkedIn, it generated some pretty insightful responses. These fell into a few categories:

Yes, Yes, That’s Me!

Many of the female commenters on the LinkedIn article said they recognized their own behavior in the Pantene commercial. Having had this mirror held up to them, most were inspired to watch out for this behavior going forward, and to be more careful with their words.

There’s Nothing Wrong with Being Sorry

A few commenters felt this was a non-issue. They chalked this up to a matter of politeness: If you interrupt someone, you should say sorry. If you nearly hit someone with your grocery cart, you should be sorry.

Saying Sorry and Apologizing are Not the Same Thing

Commenter Susan Rich points out the difference between saying sorry and making an apology. “As a word-nerd," she writes, "what I find intriguing about this thread is how the word 'sorry' is used interchangeably with 'apology.' They do not share the same meaning." She goes on to highlight the definitions of the two words:

  • apology: a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure
  • sorry: feeling distress, especially through sympathy with someone else's misfortune

Susan feels that in a business setting, it’s more appropriate to apologize when you’ve done something wrong. It sounds more professional, and shows that you are taking responsibility. At home, though, “I apologize.” may sound stiff and unemotional, so when it comes to personal relationships, she feels it’s better to say, “I’m sorry."


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.