Times when you should use the word sorry: when you genuinely need to comfort someone, show sympathy, or apologize for negative actions. Or if you accidentally step on your dog's tail because that is the worst thing in the world and you really should tell him or her you're sorry.
Times when I use the word sorry: When I make a bad joke, when I bump into someone, when I think there's a remote possibility that I've offended someone, when I make a weird noise, when I play a song that I think someone might not like, when I accidentally keep the children's lock on the windows and someone can't roll their window down, when I go for the coffee creamer at the same time as someone else at Starbucks--basically I say the word "sorry" at least 20 times a day, and usually, it's not because I need to comfort someone, show sympathy, or apologize.
Saying sorry for me has replaced the "ums" and the "likes" of everyday conversation. It comes out of my mouth faster than I ever expect it to, and I often realize that there's actually no reason at all that I should be saying it. I have a roommate who is known as the queen of saying sorry unnecessarily, and I've started to realize that I'm actually right along there with her. I didn't use to think it was that big of an issue, but then I realized how much I do it. I've started to identify some problems with it.
Problem 1: Saying "sorry" before saying something or after saying something instantly lessens the value of the words that you've just spoken. If you apologize for your opinions (or more often in my case your bad jokes), it's like telling someone that you don't at all value what you have to say...if you don't value what you have to say, why should anyone else?
Problem 2: Similarly to problem one, saying "sorry" suggests that you're not confident. Now, when you're saying "sorry" often among your friends isn't a big deal. But the issue is that the habit of apologizing will follow you into leadership roles and the workplace. Apologizing for your ideas, suggestions, or even your personality in those situations suggests that you're not at all confident in yourself or the thoughts you share with others.
Problem 3: Saying sorry suggests that you're perpetually in the wrong. There's absolutely nothing wrong with disagreeing with a friend's opinion and discussing that disagreement. Saying "sorry" every ten seconds in that conversation suggests that you feel that you're causing a problem, that you're starting a fight, or that you're an instigator--you don't need to perpetually apologize for who you are or for wanting to discuss something that could be controversial.
Problem 4: This one is a bit difficult to explain, so stick with me. Spending all of your time thinking about whether or not what you say requires an apology is exhausting. If you keep doing it, you run out of brain space to think about the actually important things that you're trying to communicate. If you spend all of your thought process with the word "sorry" in the back of your mind, chances are you're never really going to express how you honestly feel.
So here's a goal: stop apologizing, unless you actually need to. For me, I think this might result in an annoying trend of apologizing for apologizing....and I almost just said "sorry" for that potentially happening, so you can see this is going to be a real challenge for me. Moving forward, I'll be saving the word "sorry" for the Justin Bieber hit that you can't help but love.