You undoubtedly know one. An ultra-apologizer. They’re usually very sweet people—quiet, unassuming, and determined to please. They don’t start fights, they never talk crap about you, and if you round a corner at the same time as one and you bump into each another, they will apologize. Profusely. They’ll shoulder the blame even if it’s abundantly clear that you weren’t paying attention to where you were going and knocked them flat on their ass. They’ll lower their eyes and express regret for being in your way.

They drive me freaking nuts.

I’m all for owning up to screw ups and making amends. Anyone who knows me will tell you that it requires just three basic things to gain my respect: kindness, responsibility, and honesty. That basically boils down to a few simple standards.

  • Kindness: Don’t hurt anyone on purpose, and offer your gifts, whatever they may be, when you see need.
  • Responsibility: Take both the credit and the blame for your life, and accept that barring extreme circumstances, you are who, what, and where you are because of the choices you’ve made thus far, and you are the only one with the power to change your direction.
  • Honesty: Really, just don’t frickin’ lie. I might not call you out on it if you do, but it will change things. It may end us, but even if it doesn’t, I will never look at you the same way again. Lying is, to me, a really big deal.

Simple enough, right?

So why is it that ultra-apologizers get under my skin so badly? On the surface, they meet all of my basic standards for people I respect. The thing is, if you look closer, they actually don’t meet any of them.

Ultra-apologizers may not hurt anyone on purpose, but it seems to me that they don’t share their gifts, either. Instead, they bury themselves so deeply beneath coatings of matte unobtrusiveness that they all but disappear. Any fire in there? Passion? Anger? Anything?

Bueller? Bueller?

Kindness as a sloppy topcoat isn’t admirable. It’s just whitewash.

It might seem that ultra-apologizers are ├╝ber-responsible. After all, they own up to everything. You knock ‘em down, they say sorry. You leave ‘em sitting at a restaurant table in silence for twenty minutes while you take two phone calls, they’ll feel bad for keeping you from your really important life. That’s not being responsible—that’s being a doormat, and that’s just creepy and a little bit sad. Responsibility would require them to stand up for themselves—not necessarily in some grand show of independence, but as a simple acknowledgement that they are people and deserve a bit of respect.

Well, at least ultra-apologizers aren’t liars, right? That’s something.


Ultra-apologizers do the most dangerous kind of lying. They lie to themselves. They convince themselves, through sheer repetition of anti-affirmations that they matter less than everyone else. That they don’t mind taking a back seat, taking blame, taking one for the team. Sounds like bullsh*t to me, and even if you sprinkle it with a lovely dusting of powdered sugar, it’s still bullsh*t.

So, do me a favor. If you screw up, say you’re sorry. But don’t take the blame for me. I’ll step up when I need to.


  1. Quite similar to the self proclaimed "nice guys" - insofar as the amount of lies they tell to themselves and other people.

  2. Hahahaha... just when I resumed play on the show I was watching, this took place:

    "How come no one respects my desk?"

    "You're too nice."

  3. I must admit I've been one of those wimpy types you describe in the past, letting people walk on me and then apologizing for it.

    I would hope I've matured and gained more respect for myself since those shy, wallflower days. Those kind of people don't bother me half as much as the aggressive "Know it all and you don't know anything" type people in the world who like to dazzle everyone with their brilliance (or is it squelch everyone?) They talk nonstop and think they know everything even if they don't. They never listen to anything anyone else has to say. I have a few people like that who I encounter and they make me want to scream, just like the watery pudding types do for you, Beth. Guess we all have our pet peeves of character types who drive us crazy.

    Nice post. It got me thinking.

  4. Gary R. SmithMay 7, 2011 8:34 AM

    If you are a liar, you need a very good memory. At my age that is no longer an option. BTW, I'm sorry!!

  5. Reminds me of a guy I stopped dating because he was too nice. Too nice and mushy and kind of a puss. Never had an opinion, always wanted to do whatever I wanted to do, sorry seemed to be the hardest word. Ugh.. Icky.

  6. I was an ultra-apologizer due to my upbringing. A very dominating mother never let me speak my mind, and punished me every time I tried to stand up for myself. I then chose a controlling husband to continue to trend. Finally free and not apologizing for it!
    Don't be so down on the ultra-apologizers. You don't know what they've been through.
    Love you, Beth!

  7. "Kindness as a sloppy topcoat isn’t admirable. It’s just whitewash."

    *this* Agree 100%!

  8. I think it's the lack of spine that is so annoying; however, I'd rather be around people like this than the opposite personality.


  9. @Jay: TOO funny!

    @Cathy: I agree...know-it-all folks are far worse. I'm fine with people having strong opinions (in fact, I prefer when they do), but there has to be room for differing viewpoints.

    @Gary: You're adorable. :O)

    @KBalbify: I've known guys who swear that women don't like them because they are "too nice." I'm always tempted to tell them that nice is terrific (wonderful! fantastic!), but that nice doesn't have to mean bland/vanilla/opinionless.

    @Jean: You have built such a wonderful life and have a really loving/genuine/strong presence that I'm surprised to learn that you had to overcome an oppressive past to get where you are today. Of course you are right--people who are 'weak' have probably been groomed to be that way, but every now and then, I want to take someone like that by the shoulders and tell them firmly that they need. to. stop. I hate the idea that someone could go through their whole life being invisible and unheard.

    @Tamara: :O)

    @Joyce: Me too. Given the choice, I'd certainly rather spend time with mild/nice than overbearing/obnoxious.

  10. Bueller? Bueller?
    love it - I've been "that person" - but you are so right, blech

  11. I've been there too. As someone else said, I was raised to be that way. It's taken me many years to get rid of the 'sorries' and thank goodness. I even knew I was doing it and it made me nuts! Seriously, it was always in the back of my head that I would like to smack myself for apologizing for things which were in no way my fault. Thankfully I'm not even close to being that person anymore. :)

  12. I had a dentists who kept saying he was sorry as he cut and yanked and pulled out two wisdom teeth. I if could I would have yelled out SHUT UP AND JUST PULL OUT THE FREAKIN' TEETH."

  13. A simple, understandable system of ethics that could make life easier foe all of us. I must say, I am an old iconoclast that is rarely impressed with moral standards or ethical mumbo-jumbo, but yours is impressive, simple and practical. It should be the interpersonal standard. My best.

  14. @Sylvie: I think a lot of women are like this, especially when we are young. We're all raised to be such 'nice' girls.

    @Pixiebaby: I'm glad you found your own voice!

    @Stephen: I hit my dentist once...not intentionally, but still. He hit a painful spot and boom! my arm went out and I whacked him. I felt awful and he was very nice about it.

    @CS: Thank you. I don't operate by many hard and fast rules, and I certainly wouldn't want to decide how anyone else should live, but basic decency would be nice for all of us.

  15. Oh you and I would so get along. I get really irritated at people like this.

  16. This was a fun post. I am the person that will turn around and say, "no, I should not have swung my arm out in a wide arch and hit you on the head."
    Well maybe I haven't had to say that but I do find myself owning up to my errors when someone else apologizes for them.

  17. @Cyndi: I think you are my long-lost sister. ;O)

    @Frizzy: I do that, too! :O)


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