Sorry, Not Sorry…Thank You

March 20, 2017


I am a recovering sorry-sayer…


For much of my life I have over-used the phrase “I’m sorry”.  I’ve been sorry for the traffic, the weather, the meal you ordered at a restaurant, the haircut you got that went awry, whatever; if you weren’t happy with the world I was very, very sorry.


When I was a kid, my mom used to threaten to charge me a nickel (what, a whole nickel?) every time I said “I’m sorry” for something that was not my fault or not within my control.


Obviously, there are times when saying “I’m sorry” is the only appropriate response.  If you have made a mistake, wronged someone, been a total jerk-face, rear-ended someone’s car, or some such thing.  Then yeah, a sincere “I’m sorry” is a good call.


But what about the times we use “sorry” when we really mean something else?  How often do we disempower ourselves by coming from a place of misplaced responsibility?


Recently there was an article that ran on Huffington Post (What Happened When I Replaced Sorry With Thank You)…and I love the idea of swapping a sorry-for-everything with an expression of gratitude. 


Here’s the idea:

  • “I’m so sorry to be late…traffic was an absolute nightmare” becomes “thanks for being so understanding, traffic was an absolute nightmare”

  • “I’m sorry you didn’t like the way the presentation went” becomes “thank you for being so honest with me about your experience”


It’s a really simple concept, but if you are used to defaulting to sorry, it can be tough to remember.  This week alone I caught myself in two situations where the “thank you” response would have been a more fitting response, *but* I didn’t catch myself until after the fact. 


Practice.  Practice.  Practice.


The other BIG benefit of a sorry-shun is that it actually lets other people off the hook.  When my beloved but chronically late friend apologizes for several paragraphs about how sorry she is for being sooo late, I do the “oh, it’s no big deal, I get it” and then commiserate over the circumstances that made her late…well, that’s no fun.


If instead, she says, “I love you.  Thank you for waiting for me.  I’m buying us drinks STAT”—well, that feels a lot better.  It feels better for me because I don’t have to assuage her guilt AND it feels better for her because she is doing something tangible (buying the first round) to make things okay.


Which approach feels better?  Which approach feels more authentic? 


Words are powerful.  That whole “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is horseshit.


Words affect not only how we make others feel but how we feel about ourselves. 


Try to pay attention this week to your words…not just with sorry vs. thank you, but all the words you use.  Be sure you taste your words before you spit them out.

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