Be A Better Communicator By Dropping This One Word
*“Sorry I’m late-” “Sorry I forgot-” “Sorry I fell asleep before we could have sex-”*
Everything can be spun into an apology if you try hard enough. If you really, really work at it - you can make yourself feel like the most forgetful, most flawed, most irresponsible person in the world. But who needs that kind of energy? We’re all human, and we will all mess up. But by swapping thank you for sorry you’re giving yourself an opportunity to feel empowered, and you’re giving your partner an opportunity to feel appreciated.
Here are some practical examples of what we’re talking about:
Scenario 1: You and your partner carve out time for a date night in all the chaos, but it unfortunately falls on one of those terrible, nothing-can-go-right days at work. At dinner, you vent. You vent about your boss, your co-worker, your position there, your lack of recognition or promotion, your bad luck to have landed in such a shit job for such a long time. You vent for so long you make it look like an Olympic sport. The next day you’re at work (which now doesn’t seem all that bad, maybe you were overreacting a bit) you realize you just held hostage your one opportunity to connect and invest in your relationship.
So naturally, you pull out your phone and text: I’m so sorry I was so negative last night. I feel terrible that I hijacked our date night with all that complaining, it really put a damper on our vibe. I’m really sorry. Make it up to you later?
Well... now you’ve gone and done it. Why are you apologizing for having feelings? Did they happen at an inconvenient time? Sure. But that’s life. You’re human. And they get it, because they're human too.
Here’s how to spin that SORRY into a THANK YOU: Thank you so much for letting me be so honest and open last night. Obviously I really needed to talk through everything I’ve pent up about work, and although I wished it hadn’t happened on date night - I’m so fortunate to have a partner as supportive and thoughtful as you.
WOW. Just wow. Now they're a decorated hero, you’re the picture of maturity and all things insightful, and everyone walks away feeling all warm and fuzzy.
Scenario 2: Your gutter has been full of leaves since last Spring, or wait - was it the Spring before that? Either way, it’s so clogged it now can’t do it’s only job as a gutter, and you’ve noticed that there’s a slight leak in your roof. You’ve put a note on the calendar to get a couple quotes that you both kept forgetting to follow up on. One day your partner says they’ll do it, the next you say you’ll do it, but three weeks have gone by and exactly zero quotes have been obtained. One night you come home and your partner says that they called 3 roofing/gutter companies and got some quotes.
Your immediate response is: Ah! I kept forgetting to do that. I’m so sorry, I really did mean to do it but things have been so crazy I feel like I haven’t had a second.
Huh? What? Why? By apologizing, you’re implicitly implying it was your responsibility when it isn’t - it’s both of yours. And it’s no one’s fault. You’re not a burden, or a moron, or forgetful. Therefore, no apology necessary.
Instead, switch it to: Ah! Thank you so much for doing that! It’s been a crazy couple weeks and I really appreciate you finding the time to do that.
See? See how different/better/amazing it is when you find the opportunity to be grateful rather than creating an opportunity to make yourself feel bad?
Simply saying "thank you" helps us see our lives differently. Researchers Sara Algoe, Shelly Gable, and Natalya Maisel call daily gratitude practices a “booster shot for the relationship.” A couple extra bonus effects? People that regularly verbalize gratitude experience stronger immune systems (bye bye sicky), better sleep (hello 8 hours), more joy (yes more of that), less isolation (sayonara depression), and greater optimism (carpe that diem).
So, sorry we didn’t tell you about all these benefits sooner - wait, er, we mean - Thank you for being interested in how you can improve your life.