Attitude,  Gratitude,  Pride

Trading Sorry for Thank You

  • “Sorry I’m late.”
  • “Sorry I didn’t call.”
  • “Sorry about the mess.”
  • “Oh, sorry!”
  • “Oops–sorry.”

Enough already. Of course, sometimes a genuine sorry is exactly what’s needed. But I’m referring to all the times when sorry becomes excessive… unwarranted… over the top. 

Photo by Rye Jessen on Unsplash

What in the world would a public bus be sorry for? That it’s winter? That’s you have to step out onto slush?

Have you ever wished someone would stop saying sorry so much? Maybe (like I did) you realize you’re the one constantly saying it.

Whether it’s intentional or not, if we’re consistently spewing the word, it tends to lose its effectiveness.

It can also make us look guilty, even if we’re not. 

Since getting a new job, I realize I’ve been apologizing for things I don’t know and things I don’t need to be sorry for.

  • “I’m sorry, but I don’t know how many houses we build at a time.”
  • “Sorry—I don’t know who the board members are yet.”
  • “Wait, sorry, but what does the IV after Habitat for Humanity mean?”
  • “Oh, sorry. Am I in charge of that?”
  • “Sorry, but I have another question.”
  • “I’m sorry, but I don’t know what to tell the lady whose mobile home is splitting down the middle.”

I’m five weeks new. How would I be expected to already know those things?

Last week I walked into my boss’s office and said, “Sorry to interrupt, but I have those files you wanted.” 

Why did I feel the need to apologize for interrupting her (for three seconds) when I held something she wanted?

Losing Weight

A new ah-ha moment hit me when one of my friends said, “My husband’s sorrys came so frequently that the word lost its weight. I finally told him I didn’t believe him anymore.”

In an effort to not be accused of the same thing, I’m working on trading sorry for thank you. 

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

For Example…

  • Instead of, “Sorry I’m late.”
  • Switch to, “Thanks for your patience.”
  • Instead of, “Sorry about the mess.”
  • Switch to, “Welcome to the organized chaos!”
  • Instead of, “I’m sorry, but this isn’t hot” to a waiter,
  • Switch to, “Could you please bringing me a hot one?”
  • Next time you bump into someone, try “Excuse me” instead of “Sorry.”
  • Instead of, “Sorry I missed that.”
  • Switch to, “Oops—thanks for catching that.”
  • Instead of, “Sorry my car’s such a disaster.”
  • Switch to, “Just toss that in the back.”
  • Instead of, “Sorry I haven’t called.”
  • Switch to, “I’ve been thinking about you!”
  • Instead of, “Sorry you had to drive me home.”
  • Switch to, “Thanks for the ride!”
  • Instead of, “Sorry I haven’t showered. For three days.”
  • Switch to, “I’m saving water,” or, “I found the best dry shampoo!”

Putting it Into Practice

Last weekend I ended up in urgent care after I tipped a wooden bar stool over and landed it on the tops of both bare feet. 

And no, I wasn’t drinking.

Dramatic reenactment

To confirm I didn’t break a metatarsal or phalange (those are fun to say), I got sent to a nurse, an X-ray technician and a doctor. I immediately felt sorry for them that they all had to work on Sunday. 

But instead of rubbing it in and saying sorry, I decided to work up the courage to implement my new plan. After six quick X-rays, I looked at the technician and said, “Thanks for working on a Sunday.”

I realize she might not have had a choice, but my comment took her back a bit… in a good way.

I thought I’d continue with the doctor, so before I hobbled out on my heels I said the same thing. She smiled, said, “Oh, you’re welcome,” and actually looked happy to be there. 

And again a few days ago: I took 16 days to email a friend back and desperately wanted to start off with a big fat “Sorry!”

Instead, I lead with this: “Thanks for your patience with my slow reply.”

And then of course I felt the need to explain what took me so long, but that’s a different story.

Help a Sistah Out

Are you a teeth friend? When someone gets spinach, chia seeds or espresso beans caught in their incisors, do you tell them? What about lipstick or gloss on their teeth?

If you’re friends, the answer is yes!

Now if someone points out the same thing on your teeth, are you prone to say sorry or thank you? There’s nothing to apologize for, but plenty to be thankful for. 

Guilty vs. Grateful

Unnecessary guilt. I’m thinking we could all use a little less of it.

Acting guilty about something you’re not guilty of can cause exhaustion. Don’t you think, as a society, we’re all tired enough? 

Try responding with only “thank you” when someone tells you there’s lettuce/kale/chard in your teeth and see how it feels. Showing gratitude for something takes the focus off the negative and lets it rest squarely on the positive.

I’m still a messy work in progress. Ready to join me? Try trading sorry for thank you and then tell me what happened in the comments.

  • How did you feel?
  • Did it seem awkward or natural?
  • Did you feel more positive? Confident? Grateful?

“I love where I come from. The people there are good people. When they say, ‘Thank you,’ they mean it.”  -Luke Perry

Know someone who might like this post? Don't hoard it like a secret family recipe, share it...


  • Mari

    My Zumba teacher was late for the class today and came in apologizing all over the place. I told her that life happens and that I read something this morning encouraging us to say things like, “thank you for your patience” instead of “I’m sorry”. She did and it was so much better, not only for her but for us who could say “you’re welcome” instead of “Its Ok”.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Mari… this is fantastic! I love instant gratification like that. Thanks for sharing, amiga!
      P.S. Thanks for your patience as I took three days to respond. Ha! 🙂

  • EileenieB

    I love this. I have also recently noticed that when people do offer a necessary “sorry”, I have the tendency to say “that’s ok”, when I really should be saying “I accept your apology”, because it really wasn’t ok, and they did need to say they were sorry. So funny that we were both thinking about that on opposite ends of that spectrum.
    And it does make me want to put more effort into being on time. As that is one where I say sorry a lot because I have a difficult time getting out on time, and my distractions never seem to me that they will take as long as they actually do! So squeezing in that one more thing before I leave, is not always a good idea.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Thank you, Eileen. Yes, I’ve done the same. When our kids were little and one would apologize, I asked the one on the receiving end to say “I forgive you” instead of “It’s ok.” Because obviously it’s not ok to be hit, made fun of, etc.

      Your sentiments about being on time are exactly how I feel! Squeezing in one more thing always feels productive on the front end but then inevitably comes back to bite me. Speeding down the street to be on time isn’t a good idea either, so if I would just leave earlier I would be safer AND I wouldn’t feel the need to apologize. Duh. (insert head slap)

  • Jennifer Zarifeh Major

    Excellent perspective.
    But I must let you know, as a Canadian? Saying “sorry” is in our DNA. I’ve bumped into walls and muttered a quick “sorry!” But “thank you” and its sister “please” are woven into my kids’ DNA, because that is what one says. ALWAYS. I’ve sent them back to use the proper etiquette.
    One thing that strikes me gratitude in the story Jesus told about the lepers is when He asks “where are the other 9?” after healing 10 of them, and only 1 thanked Him.
    He healed 10 people of the worst scourge of that era, leprosy!!! TEN!! Like in one fell swoop, BOOM, they’re healed. HEALED. And only ONE thanks Him??

    I never want to be one of the 9.

    • Carrie Talbott

      Oh my gosh… I just pictured you apologizing to a wall. 🙂
      Yes–that leper story is powerful. I was hammered with “please” and “thank you” growing up too, and it always bugged me that those 9 nine guys didn’t show any gratitude.

  • Sherry Brinkerhoff

    I love this perspective! I do know someone who says “sorry” all the time. I want to share this blog entry with her, but before I do, I am going to listen to myself and see where I fall on the “sorry” meter. Overstating “sorry” does devalue the word and the action. In addition, it puts a negative focus on the situation and makes it appear “it is all about me”. By saying “thank you”, a positive sense is felt, and its focus is on the other person which is what Christ has taught us in his Word and through his life. Praying for quick healing of your feet!

    • Carrie Talbott

      Thanks, Sherry. Over the years I’ve noticed most of us who say things repetitively don’t even realize it. So crazy once I started paying attention. I still constantly catch myself as “Sorry” is coming through my vocal box toward my tongue. Sheesh!

      My feet are much better–thanks!