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I’m Sorry… So Sorry

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Oops, Excuse Me, I F’d Up, My Bad

As a girl, I learned to say I’m sorry. A lot. It’s a social norm that girls are taught to apologize, to be deferential and boys are taught not to apologize (even when they should), because it’s a sign of weakness. Ugh.

So I’m a serial ‘apologizer.’ Someone bumps into me, I say I’m sorry. I make a mistake, an innocent mistake, and I say… I’m sorry. I started to keep track of how often I ‘apologize’.  It’s discouraging to notice the frequency, but I’m also heartened that:

1) I can change my behavior

2) younger generations will not continue this trend (I hope)

3) the underlying intention of an apology is often empathy, and that’s a good thing

The Sorry Reflex

In an unexpected resource for working on this issue, I turned to the Barbie Vlog. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Barbie… yes, that Barbie, the doll!… has a vlog. I probably never would have watched it, but I read that she had a good take on, ‘the sorry reflex’.  Watch it here.

I admit, it’s a little creepy to watch this avatar talk … to get advice from fake barbie, BUT, ‘her’ take on this is solid.

The Remedy

1) Spend time observing and writing down when I say I’m sorry. I’ve been doing this for about 2 weeks. Wow, I say sorry a lot. I’d say more than 1/2 the time, it’s a reflex. I personally have done nothing that warrants an apology, and yet, my instinct, my reflex… was to say sorry.

If you want to really get a dose (overdose!) of what this sounds like in the extreme… check out this cringy and funny take from Inside Amy Shumer,  “I’m Sorry..”

2) Try saying thank you instead of I’m sorry

For one day, anytime you’d normally say “sorry,” try saying “thank you,” instead. For example, if you’re feeling sad and would have normally said “Sorry, I’m feeling a bit down in the dumps today,” try saying “Thank you for understanding that I feel a bit blue today.”

  • Thank you for being so flexible
  • Thank you for understanding
  • Thank you for accommodating my request
  • Thank you for refilling my soda
  • Thank you for taking the time to talk with me

3) Try saying other words like… “interesting”… “I hear you”… or how about, “I’m sure you understand”

  • I can’t make it tonight. I’m sure you understand.
  • I would love to help but my schedule is too full. I’m sure you understand.
  • I haven’t been able to get to my email. I’m sure you understand.
  • Would you be able to meet earlier? I’m sure you understand.
  • I’m allergic to gluten—I’m sure you understand.

Lose the Apology, Keep the Empathy

Part of our strength as women is thinking about others with compassion. (I’m not suggesting men aren’t compassionate, just that compassion is often nurtured in women.) Empathy and compassion are important, not just in action, but also in communication, leadership, personal relationships, etc. So while I’m paying attention to reducing my unnecessary apologies, I will also be paying attention to my empathy. I never want to change my attitude of appreciation for all my blessings and the debt I owe to others as a result of being given so much.

If you have substitutes for “I’m sorry”, please share them.

Image credit: the meaning of I’m sorry


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