Yesterday, one of my student’s told me to stop saying I’m sorry all of the time. Of course, I imagine it does get annoying because I say it sarcastically to my students a lot. If the student’s walk into my room and usher in complaints about the air conditioner being too cold, I’ll say “aw, I’m sorry” and sarcastically smile. I, of course, do that before I walk to the back of the room and turn the thermostat up a little. I also say it in general conversation. I’m sorry, I guess it is a flaw of mine. See how easy it is? My wife tells me all the time when I apologize for something that was genuinely out of my hands, that I don’t have to apologize. I need that reassurance that it’s okay. It has been on my mind a lot, so it was coincidental that I came across a meme titled: Mindset Change. I have not been able to think about the ramifications of what it would mean to replace your sorrys with thank-yous.
I think about what this could do to improve my relationships. Yehuda Berg said that “words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble.” The words we speak influences our feelings as much as our feelings influence our words. By using sorry, I am seeking some level of reassurance in my apologies. Though the thought of replacing my sorrys with thank-yous is hard; realizing that assuming blame and insinuating wrongdoing for simply living your life or things that are out of your control does nothing but make me insecure. Also when you don’t overuse sorry, when you issue an apology during a time that you genuinely need to apologize; it allows your words to carry a greater sense of meaning.
So let’s take, for instance, you show up late for a meeting. Don’t just throw out a ‘Sorry I’m late”; instead say “thanks for waiting for me”. If someone comes over to your house and your house is a mess, don’t apologize for the mess; just thank them for understanding that you have 3 kids and you just got done cooking supper after working an 8 hour shift. Here are some ways that Yonina Kaufman, LCSW, Ms. Ed. (the mind behind the meme that inspired this post) says you can change your communication:
- “I’m sorry that I’m late.” – “Thank you for waiting for me.”
- “I’m sorry I’ve been so needy lately.” – “Thank you for being there for me”
- “I’m sorry but I can’t make it tonight.” – Thank you for inviting me but I am busy.”
- “I’m sorry that I’ve been distant.” – “Thank you for being understanding of my situation.”
This mindset shift changes the way you think and this change in communication will cause others, as Kaufman says, to “receive your gratitude and not your negativity”. It allows you to take the pressure off of yourself and put the decision basing process of forgiveness or acceptance on the other person in the conversation. Changing your sorrys to thank-yous takes you away from the victim mentality and into an authoritative position in your life. It allows you to take charge of your life and to not back down when something happens. Ultimately this needs to be used with desecration because your assertiveness could come off as disrespect. I know that this is a lot of thought to come from a meme I randomly saw on Google, but I think the implementation would be quite helpful. This implementation also causes you to do something else, that is extremely helpful; which is thinking before you speak.
Thank you by Aaron Burden aaronburden – https://unsplash.com/photos/zunGugEsJCEarchive copy at the Wayback Machine (archived on 28 April 2017) Image at the Wayback Machine (archived on 1 July 2017), CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62297028
I’m Sorry Title Screen attributed to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21418958