Sorry. It’s a trigger word for me. Not the true apology where someone shows remorse for something they did to hurt or offend, but rather the pre-emptive apology when you are projecting and getting out ahead of disappointing me. I see it a lot in email: “sorry for the delay”, “sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner”. It is so rampant that there is actually a Gmail Plug-in called Just Not Sorry to help you identify words that you use that undermine your message. Pre-emptive apologies seem without merit or substance.
While I don’t typically play gender politics, I personally see the apology come more often from women. In fact, anecdotally, I scanned my email and didn’t find a single instance of apology-led emails from male contacts. As the feminist advocate Lois Wyse famously said:
My fear is that leading with sorry immediately puts the writer in a less powerful position. And women, we need to EMpower ourselves.
What else do we say we are sorry for? Being busy and owning our time. Setting boundaries for ourselves. Not being perfect – or fulfilling the vision of what we believe perfection looks like. Showing emotion.
These days, we are saying sorry a lot.
… for noise and children, pets and partners in our ‘work’ space (when our workspace is actually their home space)
… for having a bad day or an off day
… for the ‘one more thing’ that puts us over the edge (no matter how small that thing is)
… for being authentically you – whatever that looks like today
… for asking for help – or for not asking for help
Instead of apologizing, can we thank someone for their inquiry and dive into addressing their request; thank them for allowing you to contribute? Can we show ourselves as much grace as we afford others before apologizing for the naked child running through the Zoom screen or the dog barking in the background? Rather than saying you are sorry for having an off day, can we do the unthinkable and ask for help: more time, resources, or to just hold space, empathize or listen?
If you disagree with someone, why do you apologize for your perspective? Instead, offering a different point of view based on how you see a situation can lead to a more robust outcome. No apology needed.
Let’s save our sorry for the things that matter: when you know you have disappointed or hurt someone else; when you know another is in pain or grieving. Sorry is a word that can carry a lot of weight, or can be thrown around like an ‘oopsie doopsie’. I suggest we are all stronger when it is offered when truly warranted, so as not to dilute its value when you have true remorse.
Sorry, I’m not sorry for this perspective.