Check Your Sorry's

In my previous life, before I became a dating coach, I worked in marketing. I managed a lot of people and absolutely loved it. I still refer affectionately to my teams as "my girls." 

If you were on my team, I only had one rule: to eliminate the word 'sorry' from your vocabulary. 

It applied to everyone on my team, but the women in particular. I found they were SO quick to apologize at work, often for something they didn't do wrong (perhaps always for something they didn't do wrong). This was my attempt to train them to wait for someone to tell them they did something wrong, versus preemptively apologizing. Really though, I was hoping they'd start to gain more confidence in themselves, in their abilities, and in their decisions.

The same pattern has cropped up in my work as a coach. Every.single.client at one point, if not on multiple occasions, has uttered the words: "What did I do wrong?" And every time they do I want to scream "You didn't do anything wrong!"

I don't scream. I kindly say "What makes you assume you did something wrong in the first place?" but in my head I'm screaming, because the thing they're feeling often has nothing to do with them. It's pretty much always about the other person. 

It's funny because as kids we're not instructed to wait to say we're sorry. We're encouraged to be generous with our apologies, to not make people wait. But somewhere along the way, especially for women, we became all too generous with our apologies. We're constantly apologizing for things we have no reason to be sorry for, and in the process, constantly thinking we're doing everything wrong. It's the constantly doing wrong that's even worse, be it in the workplace, in dating, in a relationship....anywhere. It's an awful way to live. I can very much attest.

Because the truth is, despite the rule I set for my employees, despite how I coach my clients, I'm the biggest culprit. I think I might be the person to jump the quickest to "I'm sorry/Don't hate me/What can I do to make it right?" Doesn't matter if I did or didn't do something wrong. My mind just goes there. It goes there so quickly, a few months back my therapist actually told me I'm going to have to create new neural pathways to not do so. New freaking neural pathways. Good God.

Just today I posted the following quote by Alain to Botton to Instagram:

If we're not regularly deeply embarrassed by who we are, the journey to self knowledge hasn't begun.

I'm embarrassed by this pattern. I'm embarrassed because I know I'm smarter than this. I know I'm worth more than this. I know it's both not serving me and done significant harm in my life. If there was ever a reason to dig some new neural pathways, this is it. So my plan is to start treating my apologies like precious gifts and stop traipsing around this world operating as if I'm doing everything wrong. If this resonates, here's a more concrete way to go about it:

  1. Get present: When those nervous feelings of having done something wrong crop up, become aware.

  2. Get curious: When you notice them, go further. Ask yourself, what's actually behind them? What makes you think you did something wrong? What's the fear or anxiety there? (<-- that's the significant piece)

  3. Practice patience: Practice trusting that if you did in fact do something to hurt or offend someone else, they'll tell you. And if you can't wait patiently, feel free to inquire what's going on with them or communicate how you're reading their behavior, but be mindful to not let "sorry" slip in preemptively.

And if you mess up and fall down and feel embarrassed in the process, know that's actually all part of it, too.

Take good care this week.
xx Clara

Clara Artschwager