Sometimes the word “sorry” becomes a habit in our scripted vocabulary. People with Autism are often told to be sorry for our ways of being that deviate from the norm. Complex social situations are difficult to navigate, so we may be conflict-avoidant. Social anxiety, fear of criticism, and societally-enforced self-deprication can lead us to apologize for all our actions. As a result, many of us have fallen into complulsively saying, “Sorry!” for every little thing we do.
These scripted sorries can actually cause two unhappy outcomes First, constant apologies may reinforce low self-esteem, or a feeling that our opinions, ideas, and actions have less value. Secondly, if we say sorry too often, others may view our behaviors as worth being sorry for. But being autistic is not a burden. We can be proud of our differences, thinking, and passions. Here are a few tips to break this pattern and undo the “sorry” script:
1) If we’re unsure of our opinions, we sometimes say sorry in the hopes of mitigating negative reactions. We’re afraid that a difference of opinion may spark a conflict. Statements like, “But what’s your opinion on the matter” or “I’d like to hear your perspective” can get the point across that we are open-minded instead of sorry for our ideas.
2) If we’re afraid we made an NT social mistake, we may preemptively apologize in the hopes that others will forgive our autistic behaviors. This is damaging to our self-confidence, as it evokes the ableist belief that the autistic ways are wrong. Saying, “It wasn’t my intention to be offensive/silly/dismissive/unprofessional. How can I show my support/be a team player?” turns it into a learning experience.
3) If we’ve spoken at-length about our interests or monologued about our personal lives, we may feel shame for talking. Perhaps we’ve been told to be sorry for our passions or “oversharing.” But, apologizing in these instances cuts the value of our interests or experiences. It also gives the message that we are burdensome. Instead of sorry, try, “Thank you for listening.” This boosts positive feelings about the conversation.
And, of course, sometimes it’s okay to be sorry.