Saturday, January 17, 2015

What are you sorry for?

I've recently become more conscious of my previously unnoticed apologizing. A senior female colleague at work pointed it out to me, and I was able to minimize my use of the words "I'm sorry" and "I apologize." But I found myself continuing to use an apologetic tone at times, especially at work.

Take this week. I have been battling the usual wintertime illnesses, and hit a breaking point on Tuesday. I took a sick day. When I returned to the office, I began an overdue email to several colleagues waiting on me.

I began my draft, "I'm sorry." Then I paused. Was I really sorry? I was sorry to have been sick, and apologetic if my illness had interrupted their schedules. But did I really need to be sorry in this case?

I thought. I regrouped. I typed:

And you know what? Everyone was happy to have me back, and no one called me out for not directly apologizing.

My apology should not be given lightly. The only time I should apologize is if I have truly hurt someone. So I am banning mundane apologies starting now. I'm waiting to hear that something that I did hurt someone before I apologize. In the past I've said to a friend, "sorry I didn't get back to your email for two days." But maybe they weren't waiting on me. I will first ask them if my delay caused any inconvenience. If I suspect that it's a timely question, I will check in with a status, such as "I don't think I can get to this until Friday. Please let me know if that's a problem."

Can you replace I'm sorry with an explanation? I find that most times, I can.

Because I am just not sorry anymore.

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