Recently I had an appointment in a yet unknown place and was circling around to find a parking space.
As I found one and was preparing to get in, a man started to gesticulate, to yell, to roll his eyes and make angry faces, and to signal in every possible manner that I was about to commit The Unforgivable, that is taking what I saw only now was a private parking space.
My first reflex was to forget that I’m supposed to behave like be a lady – moreover a lady in an age where one is expected to set an example to the youth – and to make good use of my lungs.
My second reflex was to become defensive, to tell him that I had obviously meant no harm and to apologise.
Luckily I caught myself just in time to remember that neither the first nor the second option were particularly intelligent or useful. So I just made him a sign that I had understood and parked my car elsewhere.
As I went to my appointment, I crossed him again. He was still grumbling and fuming. I looked right into his eyes, smiled and said: “Thank you, monsieur, for having made me aware that this place was a private one.” For a split second he was shocked, then a huge smile spread over his face and he answered: “Avec plaisir, madame.”
I’m telling you this little incident to illustrate what I learned from a fellow coach some time ago: it is much, much better to say “Thank You” rather than “Sorry”.
(Now, of course, if you really offended or wronged someone, the only thing to do is to ask for forgiveness. But I’d bet that this would concern only a infinitesimal fraction of all the times you say “Sorry”.)
Before we go any further, let’s also put aside right away the numerous “Sorry”s we women are so ready to utter as soon as some idiot (male or female) steps on our toes or pushes us in the metro or disrespects us in some way. This tendency we have to behave as if it was our fault and to say “Sorry” before we can help it…
Those “Sorry”s have to go without replacement, and my clients could tell you a story or two about how I stir them up about this.
“Thank you” vs “Sorry”
What I’m talking about here are the many occasions where you feel that you should say “Sorry” for whatever reason. Then it is much more elegant, graceful and agreeable to say “Thank You”.
“Thank you for your patience.”, rather than “Sorry, I’m late.”
“Thank you for your understanding.”, rather than “Oh, it must be my mistake. So stupid. Sorry.”
“Thank you for your help.”, rather than “I’m such a nuisance. Sorry about the bother.”
This kind of “Sorry”s reinforce the discomfort of the situation, whereas by saying “Thank You”, you are acknowledging the other for what they have been doing for you. They may not even have been aware of it previously, but with your “Thank You” they are now.
Ressources vs “Sorry”
“Always address a person in her resources.” (Insoo Kim Berg, coaching legend).
Here is an entertaining illustration of this principle:
So, tell me: which of your “Sorry”s will you replace with a graceful “Thank You”?