I was inspired by something. I’ll admit I don’t really remember what. A book? An article? A blog post? I can’t remember exactly where I read it but I did, and then I tried it. Think about all of the times you say ‘I’m sorry.’ When you’re late, when you send an email without the attachment, when you messed something really minor up. Instead of saying ‘I’m sorry,’ try saying ‘thank you.” Two simple words, just swap them out. Practice gratitude instead of guilt.
I’ll give you the example from the first time I tried this swap. I was scheduled to attend back to back meetings at work. One was an important committee meeting and the second was a more informal meeting with two colleagues over our lunch break to talk about work project coordination. The first meeting ran over time and it was a 15-minute walk back to the office so no matter how fast I tried to run, I was going to be at least 30 minutes late. I texted my colleague to tell him I was running behind and that if it was okay, I would like to push the meeting back 30 minutes. I showed up (moderately sweating from hustling so hard) and was ready to gush the long-winded excuses and rambling apology I had been rehearsing in my head and instead said, “Thank you so much for understand and for your patience.” Then, I sat down, and we had our meeting.
I was amazed at how much better the situation felt when I expressed my gratitude and my appreciation for my colleagues time instead of apologizing and expressing purely guilt. Since then I have tried the swap a few more times and each time it relieves both me and the people around me from the toxic feelings of guilt and instead brings the warmth of appreciation.
Apologizing in itself requires you to acknowledge you were wrong or what you did wrong and don’t get me wrong there are certainly situations that require apologies (probably lots of them) but in a lot of cases we merely spill “I’m sorry” without feeling truly guilty about something or if something was out of our hands and was not a reflection of a mistake. To try and make others, and ourselves, feel better we say we’re sorry when really what we should do is express our gratitude.
I’m sorry I’m late… Thank you for you patience.
I’m sorry I’m not making sense… Thank you for understanding me.
Sorry, I’m kind of boring… Thank you for spending time with me.
Sorry I’m rambling… Thank you for listening to me.
We need to stop apologizing for existing and instead appreciate the people around us who spend time with us, wait for us, listen to us. They aren’t telling you that you’re boring, repeatedly late, or rambling… don’t tell yourself that. I just wanted to share this because it has truly had a profound impact on many situations in the past few months, simply switching two words. Thank you, instead of I’m sorry.