>> Saturday, July 4, 2009
Aron asked: People think I say "sorry" and "thank you" too much. Is it really that annoying? My parents constantly tell me to be more confident, but I'm just trying to be humble. Are these problems that I need to work on?
Alright, let me break this down into parts and answer.
First, there's no such thing as saying "thank you" too much. Every time someone does something nice for you, a thank you is appropriate.
The plethora of "I'm sorries" I understand. I used to be prone to that myself, not that I was trying to be humble, but I'd been conditioned as a scapegoat. However, taking on responsibility for everything that goes wrong has nothing to do with humility - think about it. The assertion that you could stop bad things from happening if you tried, no matter the cause, is actually pretty arrogant.
What's more, saying "sorry" automatically appears disingenuous because it generally is. Once it becomes reflexive than it stops meaning anything. In my opinion, the term "I'm sorry" is actually a very complex thing to say. It's the short form of "I've done something I regret and I will take steps to preclude recurrence." If you bump into someone because you weren't paying attention, it should mean that you'll try to pay more attention next time. If someone cries because you said something thoughtless, then it should mean that you will try to think before speaking next time. So, here's my recommendation: each time you're tempted to say "sorry," ask yourself what you did that you regret and what you intend to do to correct it before you apologize. If you've done nothing objectionable, don't apologize. It means nothing. If you have done something objectionable, but you don't regret it (as in, it was necessary) or you don't intend to correct it, don't apologize.
The third part of this is your assertion that you are trying to be humble. I'm not sure what "trying to be humble" really means. False modesty is far more arrogant than self-assurance - and it fools no one. There is nothing unreasonable in knowing your strengths, in knowing what you can do, in taking pride in your work. As long as you don't confuse your strengths with being "better" than the people around you, only the petty will see you as arrogant. Conceit has to do with thinking you can do more (and/or do it better) than you actually can. Keep an open mind, listen to different opinions, always keep learning, understand your capabilities, and know your limitations - you'll never be arrogant if you can manage all that. Self-assurance is much healthier for you and helps you attain your goals maore than abject humility. You'll make much better use of your gifts if you don't pretend they don't exist.
There. You asked my opinion and you got it.