A couple of years ago, I think if you had asked people what I most commonly said, they’d have replied immediately “sorry” – I used to constantly apologise. For just existing most of the time. I’d apologise if something went wrong in my presence, even if I was completely uninvolved.
I apologised so much that in the end, my other half told me it didn’t mean anything to him any more. Despite the fact that (still) whenever I say sorry I mean it in a very heartfelt way, that was now totally lost on him, and no doubt on other people as well.
I still apologise a lot, but I think I’m a bit better at it now. And instead of apologising, whenever I can, I say thank you instead.
Now, I hear what you’re thinking. Thank you is not the same as sorry. But hear me out on this one.
- Sorry that I got annoyed/angry/said the wrong thing -> Thank you for being so understanding
- Sorry I did something wrong -> Thank you for helping me out in that tricky situation
- Sorry I was late -> Thank you for waiting for me
- Sorry I didn’t reply -> Thank you for following up/taking the time to find out how I am
It works. And mostly I think it works because people don’t like hearing the word sorry. It implies blame, and often it’s blame which they haven’t placed. Saying sorry can make people feel guilty that they’ve made you feel bad, but saying thank you just reassures them that you are aware of the imperfection of the situation, and you appreciate the part they have played in it.
It’s not a big change, really, and honestly I still apologise ALL THE TIME, but I do try now to really think about when I can show my gratitude for the effort that people put in for me.
You’re welcome, and thank you.