When we’ve made a mistake or hurt someone’s feelings, our first reaction might be to say, “I’m sorry.” And while that expression is polite, apologizing may not be the best way to show you care. In addition, saying, “I’m sorry,” every time you are in error can become a mantra that diminishes your self-respect. Here are four ways to flip your apology script by saying “thank you” instead.
Sorry ‘bout that
In a column for The Mission, James Clear points out that saying sorry when you’re late for an appointment still makes it all about you. Think about it: You’re meeting friends for dinner but you left the house late, ran into traffic, and arrived at the restaurant 20 minutes behind schedule. Being late was stressful for you but it was also stressful for the people who waited. Instead of apologizing, Clear recommends saying, “Thank you for your patience.” And when you say, “thank you,” consider the sacrifice your friends made for you and really mean your words.
It’s a sad song
There is even a playlist for the best “I’m sorry” songs. “Purple Rain” by Prince, “Jealous Guy” by John Lennon and “Apology” by Chris Brown are just a few. However, saying I am sorry can be a difficult thing to express and often, hard to hear. For example, when a friend tells you sad news – perhaps her cat died – it’s natural to instinctively say that you are sorry. In addition, we often try to make the situation better with words like, “Well, Fluffy lived a long time.” Place the focus on your friend is a more thoughtful way to let her know you care. Try switching the sorry reflex to gratitude and say, “ Thank you for sharing this with me. Please let me know if I can help. I’m here for you.” We think you’ll find it a relief to be positive and your friend will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Breaking the sorry habit
According to a study published by the University of Waterloo, women really do apologize more than men, often out of habit and because they want to be liked. The bad news about all those apologies is that they make you seem less confident, especially in the workplace. The cartoonist Yao Xiao illustrates how you can flip the switch. This impacts how others perceive you. Choose to say, “Thank you for listening,” instead of “I’m sorry for rambling.” If you’re tempted to apologize, try thank you instead. It will improve how others see you and how you see yourself.
Mom was right: always say thank you
Saying thank you is also a graceful way to handle criticism. And if the criticism is unwarranted, a thank you usually ends an unpleasant conversation without more drama. Imagine this scenario. During a team meeting a co-worker criticizes a report you wrote, calling it poorly researched. Instead of defending your work, simply say, “Thank you. I appreciate that you shared your opinion with me.” If you want to take it a step further, ask them for additional feedback.
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 The Mission, “Make Your Life Better by Saying Thank You in These 7 Situations,” James Clear, February 6, 2018
 University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, “When and Why Women Apologize More than Men,” Karina Schumann, 2010
 Anthology, “The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality,” Avital Norman Nathman, 2013
 The Job Network, “Why You Should Say ‘Thank You’ Instead of ‘Sorry,’ Jessie Liu