For Aron: Arrogant or Humble?

>> 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.


  • Aron Sora

    Wow, now I feel really bad. In this light, I do seem really arrogant.

    About 99% of the things I said sorry about I continued on with them. Most of the time when I feel awkward I say I'm sorry. Being a socially awkward geek, that happens a lot. I guess "I'm sorry" is more of a comforting blanket then a learning tool. That word should be a learning tool.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

  • Stephanie B

    You're good people, Aron. Many people have no interest in improving yourself and you do. I just hope you learn to appreciate yourself a bit more.

  • flit

    I had a prof that apologizes ALL the time....even for things beyond her control. It drove me NUTS - her constant apologies made me uncomfortable - like I had done something to make her feel that she had to apologize.

    She did it with everyone, not just me... and it definitely caused her to appear totally lacking in confidence.

  • Aron Sora

    Thanks for your believe in me


    Was she socially awkward? Maybe there is a connection (I spent to much time in AP Stat)

  • JD at I Do Things

    Great insight into apologies and humility, Stephanie. That's an exercise many of us would benefit from: thinking before automatically apologizing. I think there are too many insincere "I'm sorry's" out there. (Not necessarily you, Aron!)

  • Stephanie B

    I know I needed to think about it. I used to just blurt out "I'm sorry" all the time. Oddly, my first husband broke me of the habit. I used to say it all the time, even if I was the one victimized but I realized I was still angry/resentful because I hadn't done anything wrong. I also noticed that, when he said he was sorry, it made no impact on his behavior. No matter how well I explained the damage done to me or why I needed him to stopping doing whatever, it made no impression.

    The "I'm sorry" he blurted was a reflexive shut-her-up thing (again, Aron, I know this isn't applicable directly to you).

    I hated the fact that he made no move to correct his behavior because, to me, that should have been part and parcel of the apology. That's when I started thinking about my own apologies and realized that, when I had nothing to correct (or was unwilling to do so), my apologies were just as insincere. Although I did work to change certain behaviors, the other apologies were as insincere as his own.

    So I fixed me. He was not fixable.

  • The Mother

    I have a friend who apologizes, all the time.

    To me, it's a sign of her deeper insecurity issues.

    I'm not saying never apologize. But 90% of the time, it either isn't your fault, or is perfectly understandable in the broader context of the situation.

  • Shakespeare

    When I do say I'm sorry, I ALWAYS (now) say why I'm sorry. I say, "I'm sorry I yelled at you," or "I'm sorry your day is turning out so bad." The second example is the other meaning to "I'm sorry," rather like saying it to someone who's relative has died. It isn't my fault, but I so wish it hadn't happened to my friend... so I express this with a hug, but without fault...

    I have found that naming the behavior--MY behavior--helps me concentrate on not repeating it. If your ex continued the sentence, he would have said, "I'm sorry you are so sensitive," or "I'm sorry you're mad at me again," and the sentence would have nothing to do with his own behavior (showing he would not change it). Naming my fault helps me not do this.

    And Aron, you have to be a good person, because it is obvious from your questions that you are trying to grow. It's when we stop growing that we become people we wouldn't be friends with.

  • Stephanie B

    See, Aron, Shakespeare had good advice. That's why I love my readers/commenters.

  • Aron Sora

    Yes, your readers are epic. But you have them because you love every last one of your readers. I think Shakespeare's advice will stop me from saying sorry so much. Thank you Stephanie and Shakespeare.

  • moongoddesslae

    ARON SONA's right.. You are LEGENDARY.
    I'll bookmark you page and I'll be thinking of what question to ask you. :)

    You know everything!amazing!

  • moongoddesslae


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