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May 30

Polling Post #2: I’m NOT Sorry… But Please Forgive My Yelling.

The Women’s Advancement Compact community events are structured to present thought-provoking content to the greater community, followed by small-group discussion. The dialogue brings out different experiences, coping mechanisms, and support.

At our May 9, 2013 event, we polled the audience and asked 14 questions that served as fodder for these intimate discussions. I offer some personal insight into my favorite question:

“Do you find yourself saying ‘I’m sorry’ for things that are not in your control? Yes or No?”

Over the past 16 months, I’ve been immersed in research to understand and better address modern women’s challenges. At times, I felt like a pre-med student! Lore has it that as some of these sleep-deprived students learn about an ailment, they think they have the ailment. My uncle diagnosed himself with every ailment imaginable when he was pre-med, and I’ve even heard of men convinced that they were pre-menopausal.

As I read about women saying “sorry” too much, I realized that this WAS an affliction I suffered. Arggghhhh! I had to change it quickly. I had to lay new wiring in my brain, a la David Rock and begin to learn a new habit.

During the early days when I caught myself saying “I’m sorry”, I felt like I was kicking up a dust cloud. I was so clumsy on my feet. “I’m sorry, oh, no….sorry about that, I’m not supposed to say I’m sorry”… but because I’m an old pro at laughing at myself, I hung in there, and started to replace the “I’m sorry” with “please forgive me” or “apologies” or “that stinks” (as in “that stinks that you were stuck at the airport for 5 hours waiting for a 2 hour flight”). But technically, if it wasn’t my fault, and if I didn’t hurt someone’s feelings or didn’t feel deep regret, I didn’t say I was sorry.

I recognized I’d stumbled upon something “rich”, as I felt powerful when I chose different ways to ask for pardon. I realized that I had been saying “I’m sorry” as a reflex, even when I was NOT sorry! Why was I apologizing for the airplane pilot taking off late?

I also sensed a perceptible shift in owning my space. I used to feel uncomfortable “taking someone’s time”, so I’d cut a phone call short, or leave out some details of an experience. As my brain shifts from the faux apologies, I feel like a new chemical is being released. I’m more comfortable in my own shoes. I’m sharing experiences, not taking time.

For those who committed to being mindful of when and why you utter “I’m sorry” on May 9th, how are you doing? Please share!

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