Don’t Say Sorry, Say “Wait”

(Sorry I missed last week. I took a sick day. I should have made it up, but whoops it’s Tuesday again already.)

“Sorry,” he’ll say, “Did it bother you when I _____?”

This little formula seems fairly good between casual friends and strangers, but I noticed a little hiccup between romantic partners.

“You’re not sorry,” she says.

It’s true, he’s not yet sorry. He initially wanted to ______, which is why he did it in the first place. He’s only conditionally sorry. His apology is weakened by his unanswered question.

It would be better, I think, to say, “Wait.”

wait-callout-speech-bubble-sketch

“Wait, was it bad that I did _____?”

If she says yes, he could then say sorry, and truly mean it. And if she says no… Well, crisis averted!

Too often, I see people wielding “Sorry” like a catchall disclaimer. They prematurely apologize “just in case” they are in trouble. What this seems to communicate, to me, is that they’re going to go ahead and make mistakes, and simply blanket-apologize to clear themselves. Like a Catholic confession.

Better, I think, to give the agency back to the person who may be affronted. Let them judge your actions. By saying “Wait,” you put more emphasis on checking-in rather than jumping to your own conclusions. Wait, let’s really find out what my partner thinks here, before I go ahead and say what is bad and what is good. And it lends itself to the next step…

“Wait, did you really like that?”

And she can even say, “Hell yes I did.”

(We should be asking, “wait,” for the good things too.)

A sorry jumps down your throat. A sorry prescribes how you are supposed to feel, supposed to react. And a premature or misplaced sorry demands soothing. “Oh, it’s ok. It’s fine. It’s no big deal.”

“Wait” is a friendly pause. Wait is considerate. Wait is teamwork, is improv, is communication. Wait is constructively neutral. And we can say “Wait” beyond where a simple sorry will do.

Related: another blog post where I complain about apologies.

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