By Janet Wallace • May 28, 2016
By now, you should know that it's time to stop apologizing. If you are still profusely apologizing for things that you have no need to be sorry for, please take a moment to go read these fantastic posts.
So, yes, it's time to stop saying sorry.
Now, what are you going to do with all the space, time, and words you save by eliminating the constant apologies from your vocabulary? Here's a suggestion: replace the apologizing with gratitude. While we may say "sorry" too frequently, we probably don't say "thanks" enough.
Let's start by replacing the "I'm sorrys" themselves with "thank yous." James Clear, who argues that "thank you" is probably the most under-used phrase on the planet, recently covered 7 situations in which we say all sorts of things, when we should just say "thank you" instead. And, wouldn't you know it? "Sorry" is one of those things:
Example: You walk in the door 14 minutes late.
Instead of: “So sorry I’m late. Traffic was insane out there.”
Try saying: “Thank you for your patience.”
When we make a mistake, someone else often makes a sacrifice. Our default response is to apologize for our failure, but the better approach is to praise their patience and loyalty. Thank them for what they did despite your error.
We shouldn't just say "thank you" in instances when we have failed. We should give thanks frequently and earnestly and honestly. We should give thanks when the actions of others help us, impress us, inspire us. We should give thanks even when the actions of others are obligatory or ongoing. We should give thanks for useless things, insignificant trifles.
Really, you can't give too much thanks.
And, importantly, give thanks outloud. As Gertrude Stein reminds us, “silent gratitude isn’t much to anyone.”
One of the partners in the firm where I work expresses gratitude daily. We've been working on a case together for nearly a year. He thanks me for my efforts on the case every day. Every. Single. Day. And you know what? It doesn't get old. In fact, it makes me glad to assist. I've also noticed that the clients in the case regularly express their gratitude. I'm not sure if they are taking cues from the partner, or if they regularly practice such generous gratitude in their own daily lives, but all the thankfulness being spread around truly makes the case a pleasure to work on.
Turns out, there is scientific data to support the warm fuzzy feelings I get from working with people who practice gratitude. In addition, practicing gratitude is healthy for the giver--people who practice gratitude have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, higher levels of positive emotions, more joy, more optimism, greater happiness, and less feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Last year, Nicole Chiu-Wang sent out 100 thank you cards in 100 days (#100DaysofThankYouCards). I was the lucky recipient of one of those notes. I hadn't purchased a gift for her, I hadn't done any particular favor for her, I hadn't cooked her a meal. She wrote simply to thank me for being me, an incredibly kind gesture, one that made my week, and--if the science is right--an act that probably made her happier, too (times 100!).
Here are 9 ways to practice gratitude (and another 40), but I'd love to hear from you. Do you have any stories of gratitude? Any Oprah-esque gratitude practices? Have you been on the receiving end of great thanks or found a way to give more thanks? Post your thoughts on gratitude in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, big thanks to you for reading to the end. I know your time is precious and I'm honored you chose to spend a few minutes with me thinking about thankfulness.