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Instead of “I’m Sorry,” Try This.

Some old “shit I’ve owned” recently cropped back up along with a new light to embrace it in.

To be honest, I used to say “I’m sorry” so often a friend began punching me every time the words escaped from my mouth. She did it with everyone. The first time “I’m sorry” was subconsciously verbalized the offending person received a warning. 

“Only use those words if you’ve truly done something to mean them. If you’re apologizing for nothing I’m going to punch you.”

I used to use it for everything. “I’m sorry” spilled out of my mouth right and left and eventually it seemed as though I was apologizing for my very existence. It was a demonstrated behavior I learned to emulate.

Now I believe I’m sorry slips from our lips so easily it’s lost some meaning. Truthfully, when you use it so often how can it carry the same weight when you truly need to apologize?

And at what point are we apologizing for taking up space and living our life? It’s almost as though being a human is somehow an inconvenience for others and therefore it warrants another “I’m sorry.” But… Does it?!

As I continue my journey and re-evaluate the words I use, “I’m sorry” seems to be one excited to shift. I look for other words that will adequately express what I’m thinking and feeling.

One of my favorite alternatives is “Thank You.” Mentally I’m validating my worth.

A few examples:

Instead of apologizing for being emotional, I thank people for being present while I expressed what I was experiencing in the moment.

If I’m headed down an aisle in a store and need to pass someone I used to say “I’m sorry” as they moved to the side to let me pass. Now I say “Thank you, and have a great day!”

If I miss what someone says, “Can you repeat that? Thanks for understanding my hearing challenges.”

When giving condolences, “I’m sad to hear about______. I’m here to help.” It’s not my fault they have experienced loss or difficulty, why do I need to apologize?

When interrupting someone, “Excuse me and thank you for letting me interrupt.” (Yes, “I’m sorry” can be fully appropriate here depending on the situation.)

When I’m late I usually notify the person ahead of time. Then when I arrive I can say, “Thank you for waiting for me. I appreciate your understanding.”

The bottom line is, I now consciously think about how to express myself and find more accurate words. Sure, there are times “I’m sorry” is the most appropriate expression for the moment. When I use it I make sure there’s a follow-up. “I’m sorry for____________.” It adds comprehension and awareness to why I’m apologizing instead of the sideline default.

Journal Prompts
  1. Do you know anyone who uses the phrase “I’m sorry” a ton? (Or do you?) Have you ever paid attention?
  2. When someone says, “I’m sorry” to you, how do you feel? Does it register? 
  3. What other phrases can you use to express yourself instead?


                                         with love,


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