I am generally a nervous person, nervous anxious whatever you want to call it. Many people do however think I am not this. They’ll meet me and because I have the loudest laugh in the room, automatically I couldn’t be shy, nervous or anxious. So nervous that my favourite word, or rather the word I use the most in my vocabulary is… “Sorry”. Can you relate? I’m sorry even when I haven’t made a mistake or done anything wrong. Just sorry, I don’t even know why.
I used to think that this was more a sign of respect, humility or trying to show empathy. I was wrong. Actually it just highlights to people, especially in the workplace, that I am not confident in my abilities. It can even be perceived as seeking pity, “Feel sorry for me – I’m so sorry”. This is actually the real reason I’ve made a concerted effort to find other words to use, the “feel sorry for me” part, I can’t stand the thought that people would think I wanted pity.
What can you do about being “not sorry”
The most common time “sorry” is said unnecessarily is to interrupt – whether this may be in a sentence, or in the passage. I’m sorry to disturb you…is actually futile since you are interrupting and they have no choice in the matter. Excuse me – would be a better substitute while still being “polite” as we have been taught to be.
Another time I say “sorry” a lot is when someone tells me something terrible they are going through. I usually feel like my hands are tied but I would still like to empathize and show support. Then I say “I’m sorry my friend” (I can actually hear myself as I type this). Instead of saying that, as it truly adds no value, perhaps a better alternative would be to say – “That must be really hard, is there anything I can do to help?” Obviously your alternative should be genuine.
Unavoidable mishaps, accidents is another time I critically over-apologise. Sorry I was late for example, I mean I don’t want to waste anyone’s time but it was unavoidable. (Hopefully!) A good friend once pointed out this habit to me and said – why not instead say “Thank you for waiting for me.” It empowers me, because I’ve taken responsibility for my role in the situation, but also shows appreciation.
Not sorry! Can you apologise without saying “sorry”?
Most of my “sorry’s” are accounted for now. But what about the times, where I was wrong, where I’ve needed to apologise? How do I make amends without this beautifully overused adjective? Easy. You apologise. I apologise for overreacting, please forgive me. Saying that out aloud sounds A LOT more genuine than – I’m sorry for overreacting. It feels more genuine too. Perhaps getting into the habit of asking for forgiveness will help us think before we do things we will later regret. (Did you see I didn’t use the word sorry there?)
It’s going to be tough at first, to mentally kick yourself every time you want to say sorry. You won’t regret it though, not only others will feel differently about your change you will feel differently about it too! More confident, less anxious when the realisation hits you that half the things you are sorry for aren’t even your fault.