I recently came across this picture of someone’s handwritten note online. It is titled “Replacing ‘I’m sorry’ with ‘Thank you’.”
Here is what it says:
Instead of “I’m sorry I’m late,” say instead “Thank you for waiting on me.”
Instead of “I’m sorry I’ve been so needy lately,” say instead “Thank you for being there for me.”
Instead of “I’m sorry to ask you for another favour, say instead “Thank you for helping me out.”
Instead of “I’m sorry I made a mistake,” say instead “Thank you for pointing out my mistake.”
Instead of “I’m sorry for being emotional,” say instead “Thank you for loving me.”
I’ve read that the holy trinity of human interaction are “Please,” “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry.” I understood the importance of these three because they appeal to the human emotion. As what modern society would say, people who use these phrases often are polite. So I was struck when I came across this post about using “Thank you” over “I’m sorry.” I initially thought that the two phrases are used in different situations. Or rather, when conveying different emotions in a particular situation. But seeing that picture made me think about the importance of the individual feeling. It focuses more on gratitude and regret. The “Thank you” phrases convey emotion, while those of “I’m sorry” convey regret. What makes the difference?
Taking the first example, tardiness. We meet others everyday. We have catch-up sessions, meetings, dinners and brunches every so often. And if your group of friends are like mine, not everyone will turn up on time. Saying “I’m sorry for being late” can lead you to subconsciously think: Oh shit I’m late. I better apologise. It kinda sucks for them to wait for me so I’ll say sorry to make them feel better about me. I do feel bad for being late, I hope it doesn’t happen again.
Meanwhile, saying “Thank you for waiting on me” means you appreciate the other’s person time. You understand that they have spent their time to meet you and that that time has not been most optimally utilised due to your tardiness. Your appreciation of their time will subconsciously lead you to take note of this in the future. When you appreciate other people’s time, you will not waste it.
This mindset of having gratitude, in my own opinion, affects mostly yourself. And in a positive manner. Your subconscious will make anything you don’t do to its full potential a bit of a waste. That is why the gratitude journal is recommended by so many out there. Because you get to see the good in everything. While I agree that apologising to the other person for doing something wrong does somewhat correct that tiny tension created in the moment of error, maybe gratitude can prevent future occurence.
And also gratitude shows appreciation of the other person’s effort and establish a stronger rapport. I don’t need to explain this.
From one of my favourite writings:
“No meritorious act of a subordinate should escape his attention or be left to pass without its reward, even if the reward is only a word of approval.” – Admiral John Paul Jones