Rules of Empowerment: No Apologies, No Explanations, No Complaints
Like many, I do my best to kind, considerate and helpful. In a functioning society it is what you do when you want...well, belonging in your community and a handful of healthy relationships. But there seems to be something by which I just can’t help being annoyed, and the offenders are mostly women.
It’s an annoying habit of saying “sorry,” asking permission to do something, making excuses for delays and explaining themselves. It seems like someone who is trying not to take up any space in the world. If you weren’t meant to be here and be heard, you wouldn’t have been born, my dear.
There are so many words and actions we can use to express the fact we are well mannered and considerate. And anyone who knows you will eventually know how you treat others, no matter those times you said no or disagreed.
I was at the coffee shop to day on one end of a pretty cozy three-seater couch. I’m a personal trainer and look as such: backwards hat, a fitness t-shirt with a pithy phrase and spandex biking shorts, my ensemble coming together with a pair of un-tied trainers. I’m on my phone with a book beside me - not being read - literally wasting time in between clients. Then a 50ish, very put together working woman complete with a blazer, pumps, a really swank laptop case and bouffant waved me up from my phone nonsense and asked “Do you mind if I sit here? May I, uh, here?”
Either I’m scary, or this woman don’t know what communal space means. Of course I don’t mind! Even if I did, half of the couch is obviously empty and this is a public cafe. I’d get kicked out for complaining! I don’t own this place, I’m not obviously lost in deep work. Nor am I even scowling.
She could have asked if the spot was free, “Is this seat taken?” This question would have been more appropriate than asking some young-buck, off duty, gym-rat for permission to take up temporary residence three feet away from in a coffee shop.
Perhaps I’m a jerk but this REALLY bothers me because I see this kind of behavior everywhere. My job is STRENGTH TRAINING AND PERSONAL EMPOWERMENT. The #sorrynotsorry thing gets to me.
The apologizing for moving past someone in a supermarket bothers me. The giving explanations of your whereabouts or thoughts bothers me. Giving excuses for delay bothers me.
Here is why giving unsolicited sorrys, explanations and excuses is an issue: it fundamentally strips you of the ownership and agency of your time, actions and body. Go ahead and read that line again, outloud.
Apologies mean something. This is why saying “I’m sorry, I was wrong” is such a big deal. It is humbling and therefore everytime you say it, you get or feel smaller
There is a lot of psychology behind why we say these things (worth a click, that one). Essentially, you are downplaying your wants, desires and needs for fear of potentially inconveniencing someone else. This is totally bogus and works against very healthy habits of boundaries, direct communication and a sense of autonomy.
I feel like a little girl who can’t be trusted and needs to be accounted for or parented if I give too many explanations or apologies. And I’ll have none of it.
Apologies mean something. This is why saying “I’m sorry, I was wrong” is such a big deal. It is humbling and therefore every time you say it, you get or feel smaller (which is why The Fonz had such a tough time apologizing). It is a request of forgiveness and/or expression of regret for an act or phrase that may have brought grave offence, harm or failure.
The word “inconvenience” isn’t even in the definition of apology. With this understanding, does it really make sense to apologize for slipping past a slow walker to grab the broccoli when you are in a hurry?
Another aspect of a self destructive accommodating trait is explaining or justifying your time and yourself. When you are unable to make it to an event, do you give your full weekend itinerary as an explanation of why you will be unable to make it to you 2nd cousins friends, kids birthday party?
You just gave away the freedom and power you have over your time.
You don’t have to be busy to say no, and nobody really needs a play-by-play of your weekend. Outside of a tiny group of intimate relationships, no one really cares.
In fact, you should be VERY cautious of the person demanding regular explanation for your absence, actions or thoughts (like RED FLAG cautious). YOU deserve and have the right to be autonomous, silent and selective about where you spend your time, words and energy. Sure, most people will expect an explanation for no’s and disagreements - especially if you are a women. But they don’t deserve one.
Here is why giving unsolicited sorrys, explanations and excuses is an issue: it fundamentally strips you of the ownership and agency of your time, actions and body.
There is the flip side of this rule too; and it’s the maturity to take responsibility for your time and actions. If you give excuses for being late, then fundamentally, you believe in excuses and blame over taking ownership of your actions.
Yup, hate to say it but it’s true.
If you’re going to live a life of no explanations, then you have to be a Woman about it. Practice owning up to failure if the project is late, if you are late or if things got out of hand. Most likely, it was due to poor planning on your part. Nearly every time I have arrived late to work, it is my own damn fault.
And trust me, if you live a life of “No Apologies, No Explanations” your ability to say frankly “My morning got out of my hands, I’ll be there in 30 minutes” will go a long way towards the respect you glean from those who know you.
If you are to change, you need some new verbiage. If you are born before 1990, there may have been a handful of phrases in which you were never presented. It is “Excuse me,” “Pardon,” “Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend. But thank you for the invitation.” and - my favorite - a well placed silence. That’s it.
When moving past someone on the street or bumping into a person accidentally, a kind “Pardon” or “Excuse me” will do. This is really all you need.
Sometimes when politely declining an invitation, you will feel the urge to say something else because there will be a brief silence that follows the “No.” This is where people leave it open for an explanation or apology. You may even sense the other party expecting one. Just don’t give it. Hold eye contact and smile pleasantly. You’re not kicking a dog, darling. You are just saying no.
Your ability to say frankly “My morning got out of my hands, I’ll be there in 30 minutes” will go a long way towards the respect you glean from those who know you.
Many times a pregnant pause is explanation enough. It truly does speak volumes. It tells whoever you are dealing with you don’t feel the need to make excuses or give explanations. This will give you personal power. Kate Moss famously lived her life by one rule: NEVER EXPLAIN, NEVER COMPLAIN. Moss had mystique and power about her, aided greatly by that motto.
Despite her personal problems, she was a workhorse and professional. It’s not everyday a mousy model who is only 5’7’’ rises to the top and stays a supermodel for 20 years. Imagine the personal fortitude it requires to never complain about what you are given or have to do and to end sentences finitely in an industry trying to piece you apart. It’s a highly respectable trait. She inspired hundreds of artists not only for her looks but because she was stalwart in her craft.
The quickest way to strip mystique and power away from yourself is to let everyone know where you will be, broadcast all of your weaknesses to any listening ear and curl up smaller with every supposed “infraction.” You can be accommodating without being overly submissive or mean.
All it takes is some forethought, accountability and silence. Be polite and stop demeaning yourself by apologizing and explaining yourself. This is part of being a healthy adult and woman. Allow yourself some time to break the habit or have your partner call you out when you slip up.
By having just a handful of phrases on the tip of your tongue, you can easily break the habit. You can also feel your sense of self growing bigger.