I recently read an article about swapping “Sorry” with Thank you” and I was very intrigued. I did a little experiment and counted how many times I said or heard the word sorry over a few days and let’s just say I am a serial apologizer and I am surrounded by the same. And I don’t mean situations that truly require remorse, I am talking about the daily sorrys; the “sorry to bother you…,” “sorry to ask this…”, “sorry for the delay.” You know the drill.
I found there were plenty of times I apologized without really feeling remorse, often saying it to assuage what I thought may be an uncomfortable situation or simply rattling it off without any thought at all. But once I began paying attention, I noticed simply uttering the word was affecting my mood and interactions with others. Constantly apologizing, especially when not needed, does more harm than good. Clearly, the more we say it, the less it means, but it can also seem like we are making excuses and inviting people to believe we SHOULD be sorry. In a business setting, this could have long term effects on others perceptions of our ability and work ethic. When starting an exchange with a negative, the need to prove worth and value becomes centerstage instead of the topic to discuss.
Figuring out how to flip this script took a little inward motivation. An apology is about taking responsibility and making a commitment to do things differently the next time. If you are not responsible or would do the same thing again, then it’s not the time to say sorry. Switching from “sorry” to thank you” is a slow process and a journey I am still on today. Simply starting a conversation with a positive versus a negative has improved relationships and I feel a greater sense of confidence and worth. It has allowed me to express gratitude and appreciation for a situation rather than guilt or even self-reproach. Saying “thank you” leads with affirmation and the other party begins the discussion in a constructive manner.
Making the switch takes a heightened awareness of what may be mundane interactions with those around you. But once you do, the rewards are inspiring. I encourage exploring a few phrases like the ones below because it does take practice. Together, we can all be grateful instead of sorry.
“I’m so sorry I am late” becomes
“Thanks so much for waiting on me.”
“I’m sorry to ask you for another favor” becomes
“Thank you for being someone I always know I can depend on.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t agree” becomes
“Thank you for the idea, can we also look at this from another angle?”
“I am sorry for the delay” becomes
“Thank you for your patience!”
“I’m sorry for unloading all of this onto you” becomes
“Thank you for always listening to me.”