Bashful Brits apologise up to eight times a day and often for other people’s mistakes, a survey has revealed. That’s nearly 3,000 apologies a year, and over 200,000 concessions a lifetime, according to figures from research carried out by the New York Bakery Co.
If "sorry" is your first response to a commuters’ jostle (even though it’s not your fault they’re in the way), or when your food order is wrong (you definitely asked for the blueberry one), then you could be among the survey's one in eight Brits that apologise over 20 times a day.
The workplace environment throws even the most-assured, as 37 per cent of Brits admit to tiptoeing around their colleagues or a particular issue for fear of causing offence. Nearly half of us say that we’d like to be more straight-talking but worry about the consequences.
In response to the figures, one New Yorker is offering "brashness" lessons.
In an attempt to crack British timidity, the Huffington Post UK rang Nancy Baldwin, an ex-New York banker and self confessed "straight-talker".
“Always know where the power lies OK?”
“It’s always with you. And you could get rid of those vocal ticks ... It would take five minutes off your journey," she said, even though we thought stuttering was vaguely charming .
Despite the advice, Huffington Post apologised all the same. Oh dear: one up to Nancy. Not willing to deport the British bulwark entirely we asked when should one say sorry? Nancy was immediate in her response:
“Never. If someone crashes into you, then they aren’t looking where they are going. If you crash into them then they’re in your way.”
An empowered viewpoint? Perhaps the British ‘sorry’ might be more subversive at first glance. We also use it to disguise assertiveness, with 30 per cent using it as a substitute for “excuse me” or a whopping 67 per cent as a cover-up for interrupting a conversation.
Quoting from a guide which aimed to help plain-speaking Dutch executives make sense of their English colleagues, a blogger for the Economist unveiled the wily nature of English culpability:
What the British say: "I'm sure it's my fault"
What the British mean: "I know it is your fault, please apologise"
What is understood: "It was somebody else's fault"