I want to focus on eliminating just one word from your casual vocabulary. One word you probably use several times a day. And most of the times you don’t even really mean it. Want to know what that word is?


Not “Sorry, I’m not going to tell you.” That’s the word – sorry.

I bet you have no idea how many times a day you say it. When I first started paying attention I was shocked not only at how often it came out of my mouth, but also about when I used it and the impact on my relationships.

So, what does sorry really mean? According to the dictionary the definition is: 1) Feeling sorrow, regret, penitence; 2) Mournful, sad, wretched; 3) Inspiring pity, scorn, or ridicule.

Sorry as a Peace Offering

Women are inclined to use sorry as a preemptive peace offering when we are about to do or say something that might be perceived as pushy or aggressive. This is particularly true in work settings.

Here are a couple examples of how sorry used to show up in my life.

When I had to push the cat off my desk so I could work, “Sorry, you’ve got to move.” I wasn’t really regretful or sad. I just wanted my keyboard back.

When someone bumped into me on the sidewalk and I’d say “Sorry” I was actually hoping to prompt an apology from the klutz so absorbed in catching a Pokémon on her cell phone that she wasn’t watching where she was going.

I used sorry in many needless and inappropriate ways, and I bet you do, too.

Sorry, I forgot to bring the extra napkins to the table.

Sorry, I didn’t turn off the hall light before getting into bed (Why should I apologize? I’m the one who’s going to get up and go shut it off.)

Sorry the salmon’s not perfect (especially silly because that’s my opinion, not someone else’s.)

I realized, in my case, that sorry was many times just “oops” in different clothes.

Why Saying Sorry Diminishes Your Power

If that’s all it is, you might wonder, why is that a problem? It’s a problem because words have power. While our conscious mind – now that we’re paying attention – might rationalize that it doesn’t matter, our unconscious has a different take on it. It hears that we are inadequate, flawed, or inspiring scorn or ridicule (see the definition above.)

This is also the unconscious message we are sending to others. Using sorry casually in our day to day encounters robs us of power; subtly, insidiously, and persistently.

So we need to knock it off! Save sorry for when a genuine apology is required, or when we are truly expressing sorrow. Just stop saying it. Sounds easy, right? Not!

Eliminating Sorry Starts with Awareness, Time and Practice

The first step is awareness. Start counting how often you say sorry during the course of the day. Keep a tally. The numbers should start dropping just because you’re paying attention.

What will be awkward is, “What do I say instead?” When you get to that point just pause – a little silence won’t kill you – and think about what you’re really wanting in that moment. Start with that.

When you screw up in a minor, human, everyday way try a simple statement of fact like, “I forgot to stop at the gas station” without the sorry.

I’m still working on this, too, so I know how hard it can be.

It takes awareness, time, and practice. Keep at it though and you will start to notice a change in how you feel. You’ll be more confident, and better able to express your thoughts and feelings. Other people will start to treat you differently, perhaps in ways you can’t quite put your finger on. A little more respect, or better recognition of your boundaries – although maybe not from the cat.

Not a bad result for eliminating just one word from your casual, day to day conversations.

Are you a frequent user of sorry when you don’t mean it? Do you have trouble eliminating the word sorry from your vocabulary? What tips do you have for eliminating certain words from your everyday speech? Please join the conversation and share your experience.

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