Turning “I’m Sorry” into “Thank You”

I want to begin by apologizing. I’m sorry I’m rambling, I’m sorry I’m not making a lot of sense, I am so sorry.

Hang tight a second. You’re two lines into this and I’ve apologized to you five times. But what do I have to be sorry for right now? 

Let me try this again. Thank you for listening, thank you for understanding me, thank you for taking the time to be here today, thank you.  I’ve said the same things, but the words hold a new meaning. 

Our words hold power and these words affect our daily lives. By replacing the phrase “I’m sorry” with “thank you,” we can change the way we think and the way we live. Now I’m sure you’re thinking, “okay, that’s great, but how do I do that?” Let’s start with why we apologize. In an article published by the New York Times, “How to Suppress the Apology Reflex,” Audrey S. Lee writes, “I would often start and end my conversations with the word ‘sorry’ — sorry for bothering you, sorry for the bad news, sorry this issue came up, sorry for asking questions.” As the youngest girl in her family, Lee felt that she didn’t have as much to offer others and what she had to say wasn’t worth a whole lot. “Blame and shame usually trickled down the hierarchy in my family, and usually landed at my feet. A broken vase? Spilled milk? Mistakes? All eyes were on me. So from early on, I started apologizing first, just to get it out of the way. I found that it often mitigated heated situations.” As Lee grew up, she found this approach didn’t work as well in her workplace. She was soon told she needed to stand up for herself and stop apologizing. But again, how do we change our behaviors?

So here’s how we begin to change our “I’m sorry” to “thank you.” We know that over apologizing can lead others to doubt you or lose confidence in your abilities. Yao Xiao suggests that you say “thank you” instead. In these comics, take a look at how using “thank you” instead of “sorry” can have a life-changing effect.

As Yao Xiao says, “if you want to say thank you, don’t say sorry.” This method isn’t only applied in fun comics, it can be applied in your day-to-day life. The Huffington Post interviewed women on how they felt after turning their “I’m sorry” into “thank you.” A young mom said, “This switch has made me feel so much more empowered. At first, I was surprised that word choice could have so much influence over my feelings, but then it occurred to me that it’s not just my words that changed, but the actions I take before speaking them. Rather than seeking bits of approval and reassurance in apologies, I give them to myself.” When she said sorry without remorse, she then felt she had something to feel sorry for. 

Now I couldn’t have written this without making this switch in my personal life. So let’s take it back to how I found out about the “I’m sorry” to “thank you” movement. After class, I was scrolling through twitter and came upon this video

Yes, I know it’s a Barbie vlog and I am in college, but hear me out. It’s entitled the “Sorry Reflex.” In the video, Barbie says, "like it's a reflex, and that somehow everything that goes wrong is our fault. We get excited and exuberant about something we're really excited about, then we instantly say sorry," she says, hanging her head. "Like we're afraid of being too 'big.'" And when I heard this something inside me felt down. I apologize all the time, for things I am excited for, for things I’ve been looking forward to, for pauses in conversation. And it made me feel awful every time I said an empty “I’m sorry.” 

So I challenged myself, and four things happened when I replaced my “I’m sorry” with “thank you.” I found a greater sense of self-worth within myself. No longer did I feel awful for being excited or like it was my fault when plans got canceled. I was happier and gained a newfound confidence. But most importantly I began to build stronger relationships with those around me. 

So I challenge you today to see the power our words hold and how those words can affect our daily lives. By replacing the phrase “I’m sorry” with “thank you,” you can change the way you think and the way you live. I bet now that it’s been pointed out to you, you’ll find that you say “I’m sorry” more than you say “thank you.” Let’s change that, because once you do, you’ll hold your head a little higher. Why? Because you are leading with grace. Keep in mind the words “thank you” do not mean that you lose being a nice person; now you are a nice person and a confident and respected leader. 

Thank you.