27 Oct Things to Say Instead of I’m Sorry
*disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links and mental health triggers… and it will definitely contain curse words, hard truths, hope, inspiration, and love
A lot of us say ‘I’m sorry’ for a lot of things we don’t actually need to be sorry for. And this is subconsciously letting us take blame for and assume responsibility for things that actually have nothing to do with us or actually warrants an apology at all. Which hurts our confidence, creates opportunity for negative self-talk, anxiety, makes us look weak, creates space to be a scapegoat or taken advantage of, and can just lead to a straight up mental spirals amongst many other things we don’t need to feel while struggling with our mental health and/or depression. Which is why I want to talk about and provide you with things to say instead of I’m sorry.
I never noticed how much I said ‘I’m sorry’ for no good reason until my fiance called it out. One time he counted how many times I said it in a day. I said ‘I’m sorry’, 44 times. There is NO possible way in the world I have 44 reasons to say I’m sorry each day.
Saying I’m sorry for things we don’t actually need to be sorry for is most commonly found in the workplace and in women… whether you are a mental health struggle-er or not. But it bleeds into real life a lot for those of us who are working on our mental health.
Each time you apologize rather than finding less responsibility assuming things to say instead of “I’m sorry’, the genuinity of your sentiment diminishes in addition to your confidence. I’m sorry loses value each time you say it when you don’t need to be sorry for anything, while also telling yourself you’ve somehow done something wrong. The phrase ‘I’m sorry’ is more powerful than you think.
As I started digging into why I needed to find things to say instead of I’m sorry, I realized I was apologizing all the time because I was just lacking the correct vocabulary to properly express my emotions. So I am providing you with a list of alternatives to I’m sorry so you can reclaim your confidence and genuinity, while also stop assuming responsibility for things that are not yours to assume.
Things to Say Instead of I’m Sorry for Situations that Don’t Need an Apology
I figured I’d break this advice down into different sections based on common scenarios I have found myself chronically over-apologizing for when I did not need to apologize at all. Below are the situations that have made a HUGE difference in my life and confidence when I learned to navigate other ways to express myself.
TBH, I’m late for everything more often than I’m not. I’m not gonna lie to you, when Mike and I first started dating, we’d make a plan to meet at a bar at a certain time, but he ALWAYS knew I’d be about 30 min late. He still showed up on time, just in case I actually did, but he knew he’d mostly have to wait for me. That man is a saint.
I’m 31 years old and I STILL think it only takes me 20 minutes to get ready. #RealTalk, it actually takes like 45 minutes… so I’m pretty much always late. But it takes me 45 min due to things other than my hair and make-up. And I’m like, not starting to get ready later than I need to out of selfishness or lack of consideration. It’s honestly my mental health.
Sometimes I need to barter with myself to put on pants. Which is a seemingly simple thing for most people, but not for me. Or sometimes I can’t find clean undies because I’ve been too depressed to clean. Sometimes my OCD kicks in when I’m trying to put on my socks, and it takes me about 5 minutes to figure out which sock feels right to go on first.
And then once I finally get my pants and socks on, I need to barter with myself to leave the front door. And then once I leave the front door and get down to my car, I have anxiety about whether or not I locked the door so I have to go back upstairs and double check. And then I get out of our neighborhood and have anxiety about whether or not I unplugged my straightening iron and start mentally spiraling about burning down the building, murdering all of the pets, and cheaping out on our renters insurance because I’m about to accidentally burn that shit down (I’ve since splurged for a straightening iron with an auto shut off).
But anywho, my point is that I’m not always intentionally late, but sometimes my mental health fucks with me and I show up late. Saylahvee. And each time I apologized for being late, knowing that I tried my best but it was out of my control, I hated myself for not being able to put on socks or quiet my brain. I made myself feel like the problem even though I’m working SO hard on the things that make me late sometimes.
Things to say instead of I’m sorry for being late:
Thank you for waiting for me.
Thank you for your patience.
I appreciate your time.
I know your time is so valuable, I will do my best to show up on-time next time we meet.
Thanks so much for your understanding.
Taking a while to respond
I personally take a while to respond because I overthink EVERYTHING and sometimes I just have too many other things to do and if I put myself in a position to overthink, I won’t get anything else done.
I’ve learned that I need to be selfish to protect my mental health sometimes, and that is absolutely, 1,000,000% something to NEVER be sorry for.
Also, we forget that we once lived in a time of landlines and beepers and if you weren’t home or near a phone, whoever wanted to reach you HAD to wait. We’ve normalized immediate gratification lately, which does not always need to be a normal thing.
Things to say instead of I’m sorry for taking a while to respond:
I know it took me a bit to respond, I honestly needed some ‘me’ time.
Thank you for your patience
I know this took me a bit to respond but I wanted to be thoughtful
I want you to know your message/email was very important to me, I just did not have a chance to get to it until now. I hope you understand.
Thank you for your understanding
Not Understanding Something / Needing Clarification
The thing about people is we all think, absorb, and see things differently. And the ways in which I interpret something may be very different from the way you do. And because of that, there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for clarification, yet most of us still apologize when we do so.
When I am super struggling with my depression, my brain is foggy. Heck, my entire life is foggy. Those are the times that I misunderstand and miscommunicate the most. And I’ve learned that I NEED to ask for clarity if I want to somewhat keep up with my life and responsibilities so that I don’t walk into a complete shitshow of a life once my depression fog has cleared.
I always used to apologize for asking for clarity because I felt like a dumbdumb for not understanding or for wanting to be certain. My apology was some padding for my ego of course, to make me feel safe. But it actually made me seem weak. Not only that, but my need to apologize for needing clarification was letting everyone else who needed the same clarification think they should be apologizing as well. It was subconsciously perpetuating an unhealthy habit in everyone.
Things to say instead of I’m sorry for needing clarification:
I have a question…
I just want to make sure I’m following…
Can you please clarify _____
I live in a resort mountain valley so most of our economy is driven by tourism. And with that, comes one of my top 5 pet peeves… groups of people who walk down the sidewalk 5 people deep, blocking the entire sidewalk, and walking slower than molasses while they window shop and oogle the mountain views. And I get it, cowboy hats and mountains are neat. But not when I have 5 minutes to get across town in the snow and I keep yelling ‘EXCUSE ME’ to try to pass, yet no one seems to even be aware of me.
I started saying I’m sorry to people as I pushed past them. Idk why… They were the ones blocking me. Yet it was somehow my fault?
I also noticed I was apologizing when someone held the door open for me but I was like 7 feet away and felt the need to run those 7 feet to the door and then apologize for making the person wait. Like those 3 seconds were going to make or break the day of the person kind enough to choose to consider me. Which also diminishes their act of kindness and subconsciously validates that I’m not worthy of other people’s kindness.
There are billions of people on this earth and we are bound to bump into others from time to time. Whether you stepped on someone’s toe, or had to walk in front of them while they were staring at cereal in the grocery store, just felt bad they had to wait a few extra seconds for you… you don’t need to apologize.
Things to say instead of I’m sorry for encountering others:
Do you mind __________
Thank you for __________
I’d appreciate if __________
Correcting Someone, Disagreeing, and/or Pushing Limits
I know it’s a crazy concept… but we are not going to agree with everyone on our path. And in certain situations, we will need to correct people. This is nothing to be sorry for. This is life. Saylahvee.
It’s okay to disagree or correct, but do it with confidence and compassion. Your apology can almost have a degrading or judging tone without even realizing it. Your apology can also come across as weakness.
Things to say instead of I’m sorry for correcting, disagreeing, and pushing limits:
I’d like to point out ________
If I may __________
I personally feel____
I’d like to express ______
I have a suggestion ________
I’d like to explain ______________
I was actually talking about this one yesterday with another mental health blogger while we were chatting via Facebook. She was telling me about someone in her family passing. I honestly just skipped over that part because I didn’t know what to say. Saying I’m sorry didn’t feel right because I don’t know how she felt about that person passing. It also felt disingenuous.
I eventually circled back around and told her I didn’t respond to the message about someone passing because I did not know how to respond, and asked her how she felt rather than forcing my I’m sorry on her, when I didn’t really even know if that’s something I should be sorry for.
We also apologize when demonstrating empathy in the workplace. If someone had a tough 1:1 meeting with the boss and they are upset… our go-to is to say I’m sorry. If someone forgot a deadline, I’m sorry. Why are we sorry? Again, apologizing for things we do not need to be sorry for actually does the opposite of demonstrating empathy.
Things to say instead of I’m sorry for demonstrating empathy:
How do you feel about that?
That is so frustrating.
Is there anything I can do to help?
That sounds awful.
I am here for you.
Thank you for sharing that with me, that must be tough.
Quick and General Go-To Phrases when you need things to say instead of I’m sorry but don’t know what to say
I’ve given some pretty straightforward I’m sorry alternatives for specific situations above but wanted to also give you some quick and general statements to have in your back pocket or if you want to try to develop some of your own things to say instead of I’m sorry. And if you want to explore even more alternatives to saying I’m sorry, check out this Forbes post all about I’m sorry alternatives.
Additional things to say instead of I’m Sorry:
I’d like to explain
I will try
I take full responsibility
Do you find yourself over-saying I’m sorry?
Lmk if you are going to try any of my tips in the comments below!