Learn to say “thank you” instead of “I’m sorry.” We apologize so much that it becomes a part of our personality.
I’m snaking my way through the showers to the pool at the gym which is trickier than it sounds. There are a ton of women, mostly all naked, doing all different kinds of activities. Some are showering, but others are looking through their bags for their post-workout-toiletries, while a small group chatting have situated themselves awkwardly in the center between the two rows of showers. I try not to get in anybody’s way, maneuvering around the social circle, when a woman comes through the pool-door and body slams me into the wall.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I say to her. She makes the universal sound for “That’s okay” and I go on my way. Once I’m in the pool, I ask myself why I apologized to her in the first place; she ran into me. Was I apologizing for having the bad-timing of being in her way as she barreled through the door, or was I apologizing for just being?
I say it all the time—I say it out of habit, I say it when I’m not even conscious that I’m saying it, and I say it when I don’t know what else to say.
When we’re young, we’re taught to have good manners, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to be kind and respectful to others. But there’s a difference between being courteous and apologizing all the time.
As women, we’re trained to apologize—for the things we’ve done, haven’t done, or done badly. We apologize so much that it becomes a part of our personality.
If someone steps on my feet at a concert, I’ll say I’m sorry as if it's my fault. If I have to send something back to the kitchen because it wasn’t cooked right, I’ll apologize to the wait-person. I apologize for other people’s mistakes, because I don’t want to hurt their feelings, I don’t want them to get angry, and sometimes I say it because I don’t have the energy to deal with the situation.
We send a message when we overuse any phrase, but especially “I’m sorry.” It says a lot about how we feel about ourselves and about how others see us. When we say that we’re sorry, much of the time it creates a power-imbalance with the apologizer giving their power to the recipient. It can show a lack of confidence, make you seem like a victim, or it can come off as fake or insincere.
It’s time to embrace #sorrynotsorry and make the decision to stop apologizing so much.
I was on Twitter and I noticed that someone had a tweeted an alternative to “I’m sorry”—they suggested to replace it with “Thank you.”
When you say, “Thank you,” instead of “I’m sorry,” it creates a more balanced social dynamic, and gives you back your power. You’re grateful instead of being apologetic. You’re not asking for someone to feel sorry for you, and you’re not seeking reassurance.
An alternative to saying, “I’m sorry, I’m late,” is to say, “Thank you for waiting for me.” If someone gives you notes on a project,” don’t apologize, say “Thank you for expecting more of me.” If someone slams you or something you’ve done, instead of saying that you’re sorry (especially if you’re not,) say “Thank you for the feedback.”
There’s a quote from the musician Willie Nelson and it goes, “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results,” and this is true when you replace “I’m sorry,” with “Thank you. It’s much more positive to be grateful than regretful for something you didn’t even do.
Exchanging “thank you” for “I’m sorry” isn’t going to work in every instance such as if you caused someone or something actual harm. If you damaged their car, absolutely say that you’re sorry about it, but not if you need to catch your breath before continuing your hike up a steep mountain and you’re afraid that you’re slowing the other hikers down. Take the time you need and don’t feel bad about it.
Another good rule of thumb is to never apologize for your work. Don’t say about the rough draft of your novel, “I’m sorry it’s not any good.” Instead say, “Thank you for taking the time to read it. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.”
The more you use “Thank you” in place of “I’m sorry,” the better and more confident you’re going to feel and your conversational-game is going to improve too.