From ClassPass: Chances are, nobody’s expecting an apology after you accidentally caused the door to slam or clanked your fork too loudly at the dinner table.
At the beginning, I thought it would be fairly easy to temporarily erase “sorry” from my vocabulary.
I was wrong.
In fact, the very day I accepted this challenge I found myself apologizing to a class of yogis when I realized I had cued an awkward left twist rather than the obvious right twist in a pose during our weekly office yoga session. Aside from one or two perplexed faces during my mix-up instruction, my mistake affected no one to the point of apologizing.
It was in that moment that I realized for myself (and probably a lot of other people) that the word “sorry” had become truly subconscious. I grew up near the Canadian border, so perhaps in my case it is the childhood influence of extreme Canadian politeness that has ingrained this word so firmly into my vocabulary. Still, I was determined to become hyperaware of my speech over the following month and choose my words more carefully.
For the first few days (er, maybe 10…) of the challenge, I caught myself saying “sorry” in just about any situation; from almost bumping into a woman on the street to trying to get the attention of a restaurant hostess who was engrossed in a text message. It is not a simple habit to break, and it requires a lot of attention, but it’s a habit worth observing and an effort worth making to stop. I found it’s actually a move away from the thoughtless and cold automated response we sometimes shoot out while running on autopilot throughout the day.
Yes, it’s technically polite, but an automatic apology is empty. Ending the meaningless “sorry” is a move toward a more thoughtful existence. It makes conversations more meaningful, and it makes social encounters more substantial. And most importantly, it doesn’t make you feel on some level like you’ve done something wrong.
My most common “sorry” ended up being the accidental run-in on the sidewalk. This was a really hard response to change, because it was typically a high-speed encounter that prompted a fast response. The fact is, there’s no need for an apology unless you’re at fault. It’s a normal, daily occurrence to cross someone’s path or need to pull a quick maneuver to avoid colliding with another person on the street, and no one needs to apologize for that. Instead, in these cases, I trained myself to say “hi” instead of “sorry.” The surprised look on the faces of people I nearly collided with when I said hello to them instead of a generic sorry actually brightened my day a bit. It was kind of funny to just say hi to someone as you dodge them, and I got a few return chuckles as well.