The painstaking moment I realised I had to stop saying sorry.
“When we needlessly apologise, we end up making ourselves small and diminish what we’re trying to express.” – Maja Jovanovic.
I was always raised to be a polite girl, and a good girl. Please and thank you’s are important, and I still pride myself to this day on being someone who has exceptional manners. One aspect of my good girl conditioning which hasn’t served me so well however, is the overuse of the word sorry.
Sorry is a word which absolutely has a purpose. When you have done something to hurt someone or made a mistake, sorry is a powerful way of acknowledging your behaviour, and making a commitment to not repeat it again in the future. However, when we start saying sorry for things we shouldn’t be sorry about, there is a line that needs to be drawn in the sand.
MY HUMILIATING EXPERIENCE
I can recall the exact moment when I realised that I had been saying sorry too much. It was peak hour on a Friday afternoon and I was walking down the escalators at Wynyard Station (one of Sydney’s busiest train stations). As I was in a hurry, I was walking down the escalator rather than simply standing. I slipped on the escalator and fell, with my back hitting the sharp corner of the step. Ouch. It seriously hurt. And it was completely humiliating. All eyes were on me. No one offered to help me get up, or ask “hey, are you ok?” So what did I do? I looked to the man who was casually standing next to me and said sorry. He then laughed at me and said “that’s ok….” but in a tone where I had somehow inconvenienced him.
Are you kidding me? Why on earth did I feel the need to apologise to him? If anything, he should have apologised for watching me suffer and not asking if I was ok or offering to help in anyway.
This was a pretty powerful lesson for me. I made a commitment to myself in that moment that I would only say sorry if something I did warranted an apology.
STRATEGIES TO STOP SAYING SORRY
If you are reading this post, chances are, there are moments in your life where you have apologised for something you didn’t do, or overused the word sorry. Canadian Psychologist Maja Jovanovic says the unnecessary sorry’s we use throughout the day hurt us – “They make us appear smaller and more timid than we really are, and they can undercut our confidence.”
Jovanovic goes onto say that “we can eliminate sorry’s from our sentences – and still be considerate.”
- Instead of “sorry to keep you waiting” you could say “thank you so much for your patience” or “thank you so much for waiting.”
- Rather than “sorry for venting” you could say “thank you for listening.”
- Replace “sorry for missing your call” with “thank you for your patience, I was driving / working / doing X when you called.”
- Rather than saying sorry for bumping into someone, say “excuse me”, or “pardon me.”
- Instead of “sorry for interrupting”, say “I’d like to jump in here if I may.”
Is saying sorry a phrase that you use too frequently? What are some strategies you use instead of saying sorry? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences, please leave your comments below!