My Goals? Stop Apologizing…

At City Dock in downtown Annapolis near the U.S. Naval Academy

I find it a little hard to believe it is 2012. Normally, the New Year doesn’t sneak up on me. However, this year it certainly did just that. In the past, I’m almost obsessive-compulsive about planning and organizing my resolutions for the New Year. I suppose that I haven’t allowed myself to obsess about it this year, points to the fact that I continue to change and evolve as I age. I think change is important and hope that I will always grow, mature, and change from one year to the next.

Sometimes though? Sometimes I see things in myself that I need to change because they are negative. In my reflection of 2011, I discovered a real negative that I really want to work on in 2012. Introspection did not really help me discover WHY I have developed this bad habit, but I can make some educated guesses.

I apologize. I apologize a great deal. I apologize for things that are not my fault. Some reasons I may do this?

1. I feel as if it will keep others from feeling the blame or reacting in a defensive way.

2. I default to shouldering the blame for most things.

3. I hope to diffuse any uncomfortable thoughts or reactions by others.

4. I hope to garner apologies and acceptance of responsibility by others by my own example.


Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe that people should accept responsibility and offer apologies when they are warranted. However, I have developed a habit of apologizing for things that are not my responsibility. Sometimes when I say “I’m sorry”, it is simply a matter of miscommunication. I need to say something… but do so in a way it more accurately communicates my real meaning.

An example: “I’m sorry you misunderstood me”.

A better response would be, “I believe I have been misunderstood. May I clarify my meaning and intent?”

As a person with hearing loss I even respond with a “sorry” when I missed something. Example: “I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that”. It may very well be that it is no one’s FAULT that I missed it. After all… I am a late-deafened adult. Yes, sometimes folks may cover their mouth with their hand, or mumble. When that happens it is better to say, “I didn’t catch that. Could you repeat it please?” – or – “You were covering your mouth and I didn’t catch that. Will you repeat it please?” I’m going to try to stop myself before I respond with a habitual “I’m sorry. I didn’t catch that”.

It’s My Choice to Mitigate My Disabilities with a Service Dog

Recently, I “replied all” to an email in which a group of employees were nailing down details about when to meet for a book group. We are reading “Storm” by George R. Stewart. I actually typed out, “I apologize in advance that I will have my service dog with me as she is with me 24/7”. I sat and looked at that sentence for a minute and thought to myself, “WHAT IN THE WORLD?”

I deleted that sentence and re-typed, “Just a heads up so that no one is startled, I will have my service dog with me as she is with me 24/7”. I re-read and re-thought that sentence for several minutes. I like to give people I’ve never met before heads-up about Chloe, but it isn’t required. However, some people ARE afraid of dogs or have allergies. I like to let people know in advance when I can.

When I interviewed at the local community college, before hanging up the phone I let the person know that I would have my service dog with me at the interview. When I arrived to meet with the panel of people interviewing that day, the director let me know that he was glad I told him about Chloe. He normally has his dog with him at work during the summer, and he didn’t want his dog to interfere with my working dog.

Sometimes it cannot be helped. I arrive and people are surprised (or dismayed) that I have a service dog with me. In the past, I have intercepted looks and stepped forward to apologize that I have Chloe with me. I’m not sure why I felt compelled to do this. I’m NOT sorry I have Chloe. She has given me the independence and confidence I needed to follow my dreams! Yet, I often felt as if I needed to apologize for her presence.

When someone asks if they can pet Chloe, I would automatically say, “I’m sorry. She’s a working dog and cannot be pet while she is in vest”. A better response that I’m trying to remember to say is, “She’s a working dog and cannot be distracted right now. Thank you for asking permission though!”

I realize that many people use the “I’m sorry” phrase without thinking about the ramifications of the meaning. To many it is simply a way to break the ice, or begin communicating a difficult idea. For me, I believe that the overuse of the phrase has only served to weaken my own self-esteem and even development as a confident adult with a disability. Please understand that I am talking about ME – and how being overly zealous with apologizing has inadvertently affected ME in a negative way. You will never hear me correct YOU if you choose to use this phrase.

I believe in giving heartfelt apologies when they are needed. In the right circumstances, it conveys the desire to make right a wrong and to restore a good relationship with another person. One of my favorite books is “The Five Languages of Apology” by Chapman and Thomas. I believe in caring about our fellow man and to learn to apologize in such a way it restores good communication and healthy relationships.

It’s no one’s fault I do not hear well. There is no one to blame that I stumble around on rainy days nor am able to retrieve things from the floor. You may be surprised to learn that I wouldn’t change anything about me. Sure… it’s taken a long time for me to accept who I am and to “like me” just the way I am! I do want to correctly communicate my heart, mind, and intent to others. I believe I apologize in far too many circumstances. I want to accurately relay information without demeaning or demoralizing myself.

You may be thinking “poTAtoes” – “po-TAH-toes”. What is the difference? For me… this is something I choose to work on this year. I want to better communicate with others without taking the blame for things that cannot be helped.

In October I was at a training class at Fidos For Freedom in Laurel, Maryland. One of my least favorite exercises is the “Meet and Greet”. I hate it, yet know it is one of those necessary (evil) tasks that I must learn to accomplish with an assistance dog along side of me. Reality check? I will have to communicate with others in a group when there is background noise. It is very difficult for those of us with hearing loss to do this exercise. I have to remember to turn my t-coil off on both cochlear implant and hearing aid. Thankfully, our training room is looped and I hear the trainer very well when commands are given. However, I have to turn these OFF in order to hear a group of people in the “Meet and Greet”. We introduce ourselves and give a little information about our dogs to new people. To folks we know well we simply “catch up”. Our dogs are suppose to remain in a safe place (sit or stay) and we learn to communicate while also keeping an eye on our partners. When you also speech read, it can be very difficult to watch faces while also keeping an eye on your dog. At this particular training, Chloe was in a down/stay for the inevitable “Meet and Greet”. Some of these dogs Chloe has known for a long time. Some of them are newer puppies recently introduced to the training floor to eventually be matched with a client. I spotted Chloe stretching in her down/stay with tail all a-wag and kisses galore for another dog in a down/stay. I corrected her and then realized I missed what the fellow client said.

“I’m sorry. I missed that”, I said with exasperation.

The other client didn’t hesitate and said, “Don’t be sorry. I don’t apologize for weaving around with both a cane and a dog!”

It hit me that I was implying my inability to hear well in this environment could be changed. It is what it is. I do NOT hear well in “Meet and Greets”. It is not anyone’s fault that I do not. No apologies are necessary. I’m learning to ask for repeats without apologizing.

I wish you success in planning your own New Year’s resolutions and goals. I’m keeping it simple this year. Happy New Year and welcome 2012!

Denise Portis

© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal


3 thoughts on “My Goals? Stop Apologizing…

  1. What an excellent post! As a deaf person, I sometimes find myself apologizing profusely for misunderstanding someone else when it turns out the other person miscommunicated their intentions. This becomes such a bad habit that it almost feels like others take advantage of the situation.

    So, I try to force myself to ask for clarification. Instead of apologizing, I simply say “the way I understood what you said… please tell me where I might be wrong.” You’ll be surprised how many people stop and think, realizing they had miscommunicated.

    There are other times where I’ll apologize because it becomes a situation that is not worth discussing and I would prefer to end it right there. That goes along with what my dad used to say…”Pick the battles you know you will win!!

    Happy New Year! As always, you’re truly and inspiration!

  2. What a great post! I just found your blog, and I really admire your attitude. I sometimes find it really hard not to feel sorry for myself and apologizing for being hard of hearing. I’m not used to this way of life as there was a time when I heared everything normally. But I’m gonna change my attitude! Thanks for helping everyone all over the world with sharing your ideas! Greetings from Scandinavia 🙂

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