I’m Canadian. That makes me somewhat of an expert in the area of the “sorry”.
That’s right. We practically invented the polite social apology.
We apologize for everything. It’s borderline hilarious. I mean, there’s a joke in my circles about how we apologize to someone who walks into US.
Now, add to that being a people-pleasing woman who wants everyone to be comfortable and content at all times (all things that are impossible), and “sorry” is second nature to me personally.
It was a segue into conversation, or my default when interrupting someone, interjecting my thoughts, or disagreeing with a colleague. I’d even use it when asking favours.
- “Sorry, can I just…”
- “I’m sorry, do you mind…”
- “Sorry, I don’t think that…”
- “Sorry, this may be a silly question…”
- “Sorry to cause trouble, but I need to reschedule…”
The list is long. Sorry.
But over the years, I’ve learned a very important lesson:
The word “sorry” shouldn’t be a part of your every day lexicon.
Before you take away my maple syrup, hear me out.
The word “sorry” should only be reserved for two occasions:
- When you’ve hurt someone.
- When you’ve done something wrong.
When you use “sorry” in any context other than the two points above, especially sprinkled throughout every day conversation, it immediately gives the other person in the situation power over you. I’m pretty sure that’s not your intention or your desire.
It also undermines your confidence. The more interactions you use it in, the more likely you are to feel that your thoughts and feelings are invalid. I mean, you brain is listening…and you’re constantly apologizing. So…you know.
And what’s worse…it’s primarily women that use this kind of deferential language. I have yet to hear a man use it (except when I lived in England, and weirdly they have a way of making it sound more snarky than apologetic. True story.)
You won’t find a dude apologizing because he has an opinion. Or because he needs to change an appointment. Or because he changed his mind.
The bottom line is…
You can be polite without apologizing for it.
You can make your case without apologizing for it.
You can disagree agreeably, without apologizing for it.
You can change your mind without apologizing for it.
What can you say instead?
If you bump into someone? “Pardon me” or “After you”.
If you need to reschedule an appointment? “I need to reschedule my appointment, please.”
Instead of “sorry for troubling you”? “Thank you for accommodating me.”
If you’re late for an appointment? “Thank you for waiting, I appreciate your patience.”
There are million ways to communicate without relinquishing power in a situation where you haven’t done anything wrong.
Where do you find yourself using “sorry” more than you should? Let me know in the comments!