Should you apologize? The answer is often more complicated than you think. When I was very young, my parents taught me a universal lesson: If you've done something wrong, you should say you're sorry and mean it. I learned that a quick apology -- without sighing, eye-rolling, or the old crossing-your-fingers-behind-your-back trick -- could cover all sorts of bad behavior, from breaking a vase to pulling your sister's hair. In other words, I learned to play nice, and I learned to say sorry when I didn't even feel sorry. Of course, this is a valuable lesson about living in civil society. But recently, as I've read various essays and reports about women over-apologizing for the most innocent of "offenses," I've started to wonder if I've become too apologetic.
A short list of my own behaviors: responding to emails with "sorry I didn't see this sooner!" after a lapse of five minutes, muttering "mmmsorry
" when a stranger steps on my foot on the subway, or prefacing an idea with "sorry," even if my only offense is speaking aloud. Contrary to my parents' teachings, I'm apologizing when I really don't mean
it, and I'm definitely not alone. There are actually a lot of things that women apologize for
that barely warrant a second thought, and it's time to stand our ground. In this spirit, we've created a handy interactive flowchart that will let you know when you've done wrong -- and when you should unapologetically move on with your day.
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Illustration: Claire Joines