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Why You Should Say “Thank You” Instead Of “Sorry” When You Do Something Wrong

Why You Should Say “Thank You” Instead Of “Sorry” When You Do Something Wrong

Politeness is ingrained in all of us – more so in some cultures than others, but it is a universal pattern of behaviour used to make sure other people are aware that we mean no harm, we are thoughtful to others’ needs and show empathy for the people around us.

Saying “sorry” has become an automatic polite phrase these days. But how much do we really think about what we mean when we say it? We use it to show that we acknowledge we’ve done something wrong and no ill intention was meant by it. We use it because we’ve caused some kind of displeasure for another person, we may even say it without completely meaning it and only as a means to dispel a disagreement.

Don’t get me wrong, saying “sorry” has its place in our everyday lives like accidentally bumping into someone, expressing sympathy or empathy towards another person or allowing others to see you are expressing genuine regret for a mistake. But in certain situations, there is a much better way to apologise that will, not only fulfil your need to say sorry, but also allow the other person to feel much better.

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Saying “Sorry” Is Important But It Has Its Place

While saying “sorry” can be grouped in the same politeness category as “thank you”, by saying we’re sorry we are ultimately exposing our weaknesses. Unknowingly, we are lowering our self-worth and harming our self-confidence by apologising for actions and circumstances.

For example, if you’re half an hour late to meet a friend, by saying “sorry” you are revealing your faults (in this case lack of punctuality). In turn, we are apologising for ourselves and wasting the friend’s time but also portraying ourselves as an incapable person.

The Power Of Saying “Thank You”

“Thank you” is used to express gratitude and appreciation for others. It’s a very powerful phrase that takes away from ourselves and gives warmth to those around us. The amount of appreciation we express, and our ability to sincerely say “thank you” has a dramatic impact on how we relate to others.

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While apologising is seen as a correct response to something we’ve done wrong, it leads to the assumption that other people are appreciative of our politeness and good manners but since it can be overused so much, it can actually become an empty automatic response with no real meaning.

Saying “Thank You” vs. Saying “Sorry”

By saying “thank you”, you are identifying the other person and you are recognising their contribution. In the example of turning up half an hour late to meet a friend, expressing thanks instead of an apology cultivates a sense of positivity between the two of you because you are appreciating the time they spent waiting for you instead of apologising for your faults i.e. your bad time-keeping skills.

By doing this, you aren’t diminishing your image or what the person thinks of you but instead praising the person for what they did instead.

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“Thank you for your patience” is showing appreciation while “I’m so sorry, I’m always late” is not completely acknowledging the gratitude you have for the person who’s waited for you.

“Thank you for listening” is much better than “Sorry for going on and on” as you’re showing gratitude for their time and friendship rather than revealing your low self-worth by assuming they didn’t want to listen to you.

Say “Thank you for spending time with me” rather than “Sorry for taking up all your time” because, again, you’re making assumptions about the other person while revealing your belief that you’re not important or worthy enough to take up someone’s time.

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So if you really want to apologise to someone in an authentic way then make it about them. Allow the compliment of saying “thank you” to match the situation and even elaborate on why you appreciate someone for giving you their time by saying how much it means to you. Saying sorry comes very easily to us and while we may mean it whole-heartedly and it seems like the correct and polite response to use, by using this method, we are inadvertently taking our appreciation for them away.

By recognising the other person’s feelings and acknowledging them, you are praising the act they did because of you and allowing them to see you in a more positive light. At the end of the day, no one’s perfect and we can all do things to the detriment of others at times, so next time you find yourself in a situation of apology remember the power of “thank you” over saying “I’m sorry”.

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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