Swap Your Sorry


I was recently hanging out over Zoom with two friends I really enjoy and deeply respect. As we talked about everything and nothing, genuinely appreciating our time together, we naturally drifted to discussions of our kiddos and parenting challenges. Specifically, we mused over what it is like to parent brilliant, beautiful, and curious little girls. 

At one point, we discussed how our girls have the apologies-for-everything complex. We agreed that it seems any time a question is raised about behavior, or a reminder is provided, the quick response is “sorry.” Here’s an example:

As a mom of a driven little lady, I want to empower her to be self aware and confident of her value. It is great if she apologizes because an apology is needed but I certainly don’t want her shrinking her value with the words she uses. In order to help her navigate, I have encouraged her to shift from “sorry” to “thank you.” When she gives me a misplaced sorry I make her pause, swap it out, and restate. This gives her an opportunity to retrain her brain on how she responds.

In addition to affirming her value, it encourages her to see feedback as guidance and a step toward improvement as opposed to a reflection of failure on her part. To me, this is an important exercise to keep repeating until a new way of speaking and thinking takes root.

The reason I know this matters is because little girls grow up to be adults. Language patterns, which flow from thought processes, will solidify and develop a stronghold across the years. Unnecessarily apologetic little girls grow up to be unnecessarily apologetic women — we don’t need that. We need girls and women who are comfortable with their voice, the space they occupy and the beauty of what they have to contribute. 

Weakening words, like an unnecessary sorry, cause us to shrink and occupy less space. This serves no one well — especially not yourself. I hear this show up in the workplace, in grocery stores, amongst friends and between spouses. We are all guilty of it from time to time and we all must guard ourselves against it.

My challenge for you is to carefully listen to yourself in the days to come. How are you showing up verbally at work? How are you responding to feedback or a constructive critique? Are you willing to speak confidently and with conviction about what you are saying and the value it carries?

Are you willing to swap your sorry for thank you?

PS: Here is a bonus bit of feedback from one of my favorite people — my mom. I hope you enjoy her perspective on gratitude for feedback and one instance in which she chooses thank you instead of sorry.

text message screen shot thank you not sorry

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