Stop saying ‘sorry’

Stop saying ‘sorry’ if you want to say ‘Thank you’ or ‘Excuse me’ or anything else. Sorry is not a synonym for those words and can result in either you downplaying your importance or the other party not appreciating your gratitude as much as you’d like.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since these articles have made the rounds of social media and I wanted to share them with all of you.

Thank You

We often apologize assuming that people will appreciate our politeness and good manners. But in most cases, the other party is much more pleased to hear words of gratitude from you rather than an apology [1]. This cartoon from illustrator Yao Xiao explains why it is often better to just say “Thank you” rather than “I’m sorry”.

For me, I’ve tried to switch from saying “Sorry for being late” to “Thank you for your patience.” It has helped me to better express my gratitude and keep my apologies for when things really need apologizing for. “Sorry I didn’t reply to this email sooner” is now “Thank you for your patience. I’ve been really busy with my research.”

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Sorry, Not Sorry

In a similar vein, stop saying sorry when you are actually not sorry. In a 2014 video from Pantene, they highlight how ridiculous it is to say sorry all the time. In it, we see women apologize at work (“Sorry, can I ask a stupid question?”), at home (“Sorry,” a mom says, handing her baby over to what appears to be her husband), to strangers (the man who bumps a woman as he spreads out in a seat), and friends. It’s followed by a click moment: “Don’t be sorry,” the ad states, followed by a hashtag sales pitch to “Shine Strong.” [2]

In a March 2014 blog for The Huffington Post, Ani Vrabel describes the problem:

At some point, I began using “sorry” as a synonym for “excuse me.” It came to mean, “I didn’t see you there and you startled me!” and “I have a question” and “I’m carrying so many things that I’m taking up more space on the subway than usual.” It rarely meant, “I made a poor decision or did something wrong and it impacted you negatively. I recognize this and feel bad about it and would like to make things better between us.”

And in a February 2013 piece for Jezebel, Karyn Polewaczyk suggested that women over-apologize because they feel “undeserving.” “Women are expected to be exceptionally grateful for the crumbs tossed our way,” She wrote. “And so we show our gratitude by cushioning our wants with a series of, ‘I know this is asking a lot, but…’, ‘I hate to ask, but could you…’ and ‘I might sound like an idiot for wondering, but…’-isms. ” [3]

Are you unsure how to stop saying sorry? Don’t worry, technology has you covered. Developers at Cyrus Innovation have released a plug-in for Gmail titled “Just Not Sorry“. It highlights words that may be undermining your communication (like Sorry). Since we are used to thinking that red underlined words are incorrect, you will be more likely to go back and edit those phrases [4].

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Conclusion #ShineStrong

Go out there and #ShineStrong. Stop saying “Sorry” when you mean to say “Thank You”. Don’t apologize for simply taking up space or asking a ‘stupid question’. Your words will shape your destiny [5].

Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions. Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits. Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character. Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny. — Chinese proverb, author unknown

Be confident. Be bold. Be women engineers!

 

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