Don’t say sorry, say thank you

Sorry  is translated into “I have failed and I take all the blame”. Why are you taking all the blame when most of the time you’ve not failed, nor offended, nor feel regrets? Moving from a sorry sentence to a thank you sentence is a great way to turn a negative message into a positive one and have a great start with your listener(s).

Don't say sorry

Don’t say sorry

Say thank you

Say thank you

When joining a conf call, I’m often 1-5 minutes late, because I’m jumping from another call. The time it takes to hang up the phone, dial the new number; enter attendee code and listen to a recorded voice is roughly 5 minutes. So being late is no really my fault, I do not feel regrets and I’m not offending anyone. But some time ago I would start the meeting by saying Sorry, for being late! I’ve change this and now I start with Thank you for your patience.

Transform negatives into positives

By using “I’m sorry …” you are:
  • taking all the blame, probably without a good reason
  • weakening the power of your future excuses. The real ones
  • starting a conversation with a negative tone
By using “Thank you…” you are removing ALL the negative and adding some positive
  • You are providing a positive start
  • Your listener(s) will feel good to be thanked
  • You’ll be seen as polite, in some cultures it’s a great start.
  • You don’t need long justifications. You are more efficient too!

How to convert sorry to thank you

We say sorry because something negative has happened and there are consequences for others. Instead of being sorry for your actions be thankful for their action.
  • You’re late -> Thank for the patience
  • You forgot something -> thank for the heads up
  • Will not be able to deliver as promised -> thank for the patience, show what you’ve done, reset expectations and, if possible, ask for help
  • Late on delivering as promised -> Say sorry, you should have informed before, show what you’ve done, reset expectations and, if possible, ask for help
  • Bumping into someone -> thank for not letting you fall
  • Find yours!


Sorry is a powerful word, but its power depends on how often and when you use it. Keep it for when you want to ask for forgiveness and you’ll probably get forgiveness and support. Use it often and for little things and you’ll end up saying “I’m really sorry”, which translate into “Usually when I say sorry, I’m lying”.

If you have done something wrong and regret it, say sorry. For everything else, say thank you.

 Remove sorry from e-mails

Proof read your e-mail for sorry, and transform it into thank you. You’ll feel less guilty, the readers will feel more positive and the conversations will flow.

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Image credit: Eric Kilby and Peter Miller

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