I’ve been focused for the last week or so on how often I say sorry. It turns out I’m not as bad as I expected and I realized I’ve done a good job of taking it out of my vocabulary. Originally, I became aware of my apologetic behavior after reading My Life in France by Alex Prud’homme and Julia Child. If a dish goes horribly wrong, like a ”vile” eggs Florentine she once made for a friend, Julia instructed, ”Never apologize.” Sometimes I forget to season the food, one time I forgot to put the chicken base into a soup and it was basically water with some vegetables floating in it. I bit my tongue. To apologize as Julia espouses only makes it worse. ”The cook must simply grin and bear it,” Julia said firmly. And act as if you intended it that way. This apologetic behavior came up in another book by Caroline Arnold called Small Move, Big Change. Arnold’s book is about micro resolutions but one of the resolutions she took on was to stop apologizing. She found that every time she apologized to her husband it put him on the defensive. I never thought about that. I always looked at an apology as taking responsibility but really you end up making the other person (the receiver of the apology) feel diminished. That seems counter intuitive but think about it. If I apologize for forgetting to pick up the dry cleaning, my husband will feel like he was putting me out to begin with. Like he was demanding the dry cleaning and I must fall on the sword to take responsibility. It’s just dry cleaning. As Arnold recommends, just give the information and let it go. “I forgot to pick up the dry cleaning.” Done. So here are the surprising reasons you need to delete “sorry” from your vocabulary: 1. Inauthentic. It makes you come across as inauthentic. Especially when you are apologizing for the weather or for your in-laws being late. Are you really responsible for the weather? Are you clairvoyant? Because if you aren’t then why are you apologizing. “I’m so sorry it’s so hot and humid.” Think about that statement in the middle of July in Eastern North Carolina. Ridiculous and inauthentic. 2. Manipulative. I think every mother is guilty of trying to manipulate their children by apologizing. “I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to clean your room while I slaved away on a three course meal after a full day of juggling away at work while suffering from a wretched cold.” Right. Perhaps you are just trying to make your child feel guilty. Apologizing is manipulative. 3. Filler. It’s a filler word that we think is polite like please or thank you. But it’s really not polite. I was putting some things away the other day and brought a tool to my husband and asked where he wanted me to store it. He told me that he would take care of it and my reflexive answer was “sorry.” I caught the word in my mouth and said “No, I’m not sorry.” He looked relieved. Why in the world would I apologize? There is nothing wrong with getting things back to where they need to be stored and there is no reason to apologize. 4. Excuse. Julia considered it unseemly for a cook to twist herself into knots of excuses and explanations. Such admissions ”only make a bad situation worse,” she said, by drawing attention to one’s shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings) and prompting your guest to think: Yes, you’re right, this really is an awful meal. In a sense, it brings everyone down. It focuses on the negative instead of the positive; try instead to comment perhaps on the crisp Sauvignon Blanc or the fragrant flowers or the lovely view. Quit making excuses. 5. Disingenuous. How often are you apologizing for something you really aren’t sorry for? Like your opinion. “I’m sorry but I disagree” or “I’m sorry but you don’t have all the facts.” If you disagree or your boss does not have all the facts why in the world would you apologize for it? And what does your boss think of you if you apologize for the facts she didn’t have? It’s empty and insincere. Sometimes we just need to pay attention to the language we are using. There is power in being succinct and just relaying information instead of dressing it up (or dressing it down) with “sorry.” Focus on the information you want to relay without any apologizing qualifiers. Or perhaps just be OK with the silence. Do you apologize too often?
3 thoughts on “5 Surprising Reasons You Need To Delete “Sorry” From Your Vocabulary”
Cathy, usually I read your posts and immediately think that you’ve just uncovered some truth that was hiding somewhere in my brain (or my heart). I’m going to have to let this idea simmer for a while. It’s a pretty foreign concept for me. Are you suggesting that we never say I’m sorry? Or just when it’s inauthentic? If I broke my wife’s favorite piece of pottery I would truly be sorry. Shouldn’t I say so to her?
On a side note, I find it mildly amusing that someone with a background in hospitality would suggest deleting Sorry from your vocabulary. If I had a dollar for every Sorry I uttered during my years in hospitality, I could buy myself an island. LOL
As always, thanks for getting me thinking. I enjoy reading what you write!
I guess my point is that we over apologize for things we have no business apologizing for. I think if you broke your wife’s favorite piece of pottery you should apologize. I think that if I drop a whole tray of beverages on a customer I should apologize (that really did happen long ago). My main point is that we over apologize and frequently in situations where it is not necessary. And yes, perhaps I got into “sorry” mode by all my years in the hospitality industry! I’m glad I able to find those hiding nuggets in your brain and heart!
Cathy, That’s exactly what I was thinking. Thanks for making me think.