Stop Saying Sorry: How Switching To 'Thank You' Can Make You Feel More Empowered

Picture it: You're in line at Starbucks and someone bumps into you and spills their coffee all over your new shirt. What's your response to this? In a lot of situations, without even thinking about it, "I'm sorry" just naturally falls off our lips. But why are you apologizing? What have you done in this scenario for you to be sorry? Nothing at all, unless of course, you're apologizing for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But if that's the case, then you're basically apologizing for your existence.

People say "I'm sorry" way too much, and no one says it as often as women. According to various research and studies, women far outnumber men in their apologies. One study by the University of Waterloo published in Psychological Science found that women apologize more than men because women inherently have a lower threshold for what's offensive and what's not. While women apologize for not hearing something, then ask it to be repeated, a man on the other hand, skips the apology and asks that what they missed be said again.

But while "sorry" may seem like a polite response in some cases, it also makes someone come across as weak, lacking in self-esteem, and not 100% confident in themselves. No one wants to feel this way, nor does anyone want to be perceived this way. That's why it's time to switch out "sorry" for "thank you," and finally feel the intense glory of empowerment in doing so.

Saying 'thank you' rather than 'sorry' gives you control in your work life

A good example where replacing "sorry" with "thank you" gives you control of the situation is at work. If you happen to be late one morning, don't apologize for it. Instead say, "thank you for waiting for me." You were late. It's not a big deal. A 2018 poll by CareerBuilder found that a quarter of employees show up late to work at least once a month, and 12% arrive late once a week. It happens and doesn't always need an apology.

If you're someone who apologizes for a delay in your email responses, ask yourself why you're saying you're sorry. It doesn't matter what line of work you're in, you shouldn't feel like you have to drop what you're doing to respond to an email immediately, nor should anyone expect you to do that for them — unless they're a narcissist, of course. If they do get testy and rude, then that's their issue to deal with and not yours. So don't start an email with "I'm sorry for the delay" or something similar. Jump right into your response to what they're inquiring about or ask them how you can help.

It's a better way to communicate in relationships

While there are legitimate times in a relationship where saying "I'm sorry" is necessary and part of the communicative process, if you're saying sorry more than "thank you," then something isn't quite right. Don't apologize for stealing the blankets in the middle of the night, say thank you to your partner for sharing them with you. Don't say you're sorry you didn't love their very ambitious attempt at confit de canard for dinner, thank them for the time, effort, and love they put into it, as well as the heartfelt gesture of wanting to make dinner in the first place.

With the aforementioned studies and research that have proven the downsides of "I'm sorry" and the benefits of "thank you" in your mental filing cabinet of important information to have on tap at all times, you'll find that this small shift will be better for your relationship. Does your partner need to apologize for running late? No. What they should do is thank you for your patience, which is just another way to express gratitude for you and the relationship you have together.

Saying thank you makes you feel better

Although you may think that apologizing is the right and polite thing to do, the reality is that those two little words, "I'm sorry" do more harm than good. You feel worse about yourself for just saying it — and there's research to back it up.

One study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that it's psychologically beneficial for people to not apologize because it boosts self-esteem and increases one's sense of worth and integrity. Another study published in Frontiers in Psychology discovered that even when someone says they're sorry, the recipient doesn't experience higher levels of forgiveness, meaning the one doing the apologizing just ends up feeling bad and somewhat rejected.

But when you say, "thank you," you're looking at a whole other type of experience for everyone involved. Whether you show it or say it, expressing gratitude gives you a dopamine a kick, and positively affects people mentally and physically.

Thanking people puts a positive spin on things

When we apologize, we're saying we did something wrong — even if we didn't do anything wrong at all. We're admitting to a failure where, in the majority of cases, there was no failure to be had. In opting for "thank you" over "I'm sorry" we're putting a positive spin on what we perceive as a failure and making the conversations that are being had about gratitude and appreciation, according to a study published in the American Marketing Association. People on both sides of the discussion feel a sense of satisfaction as well as a self-esteem boost.

Kicking "I'm sorry" to the curb in exchange for "thank you" is definitely going to take some practice, especially if you're someone who apologizes dozens of times a day and you still have no idea why you are apologizing most of the time. But if you learn how to listen to yourself so you can stop the sorry from tumbling out of your mouth and turn it into words of gratitude and thanks instead, you'll experience a shift in how you interact with those around you. You'll no longer be the timid person whose ability and strength might be questioned by others simply because your default has always been to apologize. Rather, you'll feel more confident and empowered all because you said "thank you," and people will take note.