A few weeks ago, a graphic design friend requested I look over a tee shirt design she was working on. I was happy to do so — I often ask colleagues for their second opinion so I don’t say something silly — and happened to notice a few minor errors in her work. The text was off center in one place, and the line work heavy to one side. Her response when I made my suggestions? “Sorry.”
Why Does Sorry Suck?
A quick lesson (can you tell I’m a business coach?) — “sorry” is an especially Midwestern handicap (see #17). On top of that, women say it more than men. We apologize for all kinds of things, most of which don’t require an apology. In doing so, it inherently makes us seem lesser to others, automatically giving the impression that we have something to be sorry about. Humans have problem-solving minds, and by apologizing unnecessarily, you’re playing into its Confirmation Bias. Upon receiving an unnecessary apology, one’s mind unconsciously tries to find the reason. So start being careful with your “sorrys”.
Let’s zoom in to this case study further. Here is why it was odd for my friend to apologize — I’m not her boss and I was reviewing her work as a favor. She neither hurt me nor ruined anything by accidentally sending me a less-than-polished copy. In fact, my role was a part of the polishing process.
Say Thank You Instead of Sorry
Think about every time you might apologize, and see if you can make “thank you” fit better. Bear with me — this totally works, and it will make you and everyone around you feel better.
Let’s say you drop a dish at your partner’s home and it shatters. You could apologize for breaking it (not a horrid idea in this case), but you could also say thank you — thank you for your partner’s patience and understanding when s/he doesn’t get mad.
Ok… What about when you are late to a meeting? You could say sorry, which, even if your client wasn’t tapping their toe, might make them think they should have been. OR you could say, “Thank you for your patience – I really appreciate it,” making your client feel great for being tolerant. We all know that they’ve been late to meetings, too. Everyone has.
Here’s a good one — you get a latte and it sucks. Or it has cow’s milk in it and you asked for almond milk, so you have to bring it back. Instead of apologizing for making the barista make you another — likely making them think ‘yeah! you should apologize!’ — say thank you for sparing the moment and being considerate of your situation.
To have handled it better, my friend could have said, “Thank you so much for catching those errors! That’s why I sent it to you.” I’d then feel great that I helped a friend and good about my design skills.
Try it and tell me how it goes in the comments below!