An Exercise in Apologizing

A couple of days ago, I invited my readers to engage in a challenging, but character building, exercise in appreciation. I received some pretty positive feedback on that one, so I thought I’d try another one. It’s an exercise in apologizing.

Here’s it is:

Go a full week without using the phrase “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.”

In many cases we overestimate our need to apologize. We often say “I’m sorry” when no real harm or act of wrongdoing has been done.

“What’s the risk in that?” you may ask. Well, the risk is huge.

When you apologize for things that you don’t need to apologize for, you reinforce a mentality that undermines your confidence and self-esteem. Moreover, you give others a moral high ground they don’t even deserve.

Learning how to acknowledge facts without uncritically and reflexively relying on “I’m sorry” as your bread and butter response can be a very useful thing to have in your communication tool box.

If you’re not careful, “I’m sorry” can easily become an unnecessary crutch that makes you feel weak internally and look weak externally.

As an exercise, try to go one week without apologizing for anything. Even if you’re actually wrong about something, challenge yourself to get creative.

Here’s an example of some phrases that could work in at least half the cases where we use “I’m sorry.”

“Thanks for pointing that out to me. I’ll be sure to fix it right way.”

“You’re completely right. I’ll make sure I’m more attentive in the future. “

“Thanks for being patient with me. I appreciate it.”

“I was attempting to do X, but I apparently overlooked Y. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind next time.”

These are just some examples I use, but perhaps you’ll come up with something better.

Since this is an exercise, not a religious belief, keep things playful. Whatever you do, don’t turn this exercise into a dogma by acting as if it’s always inappropriate to apologize.

The goal isn’t to become the kind of person who will never ever use the phrase “I apologize” again. The goal is to get off auto-pilot. The goal is to do things not because you’re habitually programmed to do so, but because you’re consciously choosing the best course of action from a wide range of alternatives.

In spite of that above paragraph, I’m sure I’ll still get at least one email from someone saying “Hey man, apologizing can be a good thing sometimes too.”

Well, you can always go back to apologizing in the very near future. For now, let’s see what you can discover about your creativity by doing this simple (or not-so simple) exercise for one week.

Are you up for the challenge?