I did a short but telling experiment last week. I forced myself to concentrate on the number of times I apologise during the course of a day. I lost count before I’d even finished the school run. I was sorry that I’d put out black tights, not navy ones; that I was cooking poached eggs not scrambled; that the yoghurts had run out, that it was Tuesday, that I was wearing the wrong skirt (youngest likes the colourful one), that I didn’t have time that day to make a lasagne. Then I started on my e mails. I was sorry it had taken me a while to reply; sorry that I couldn’t give an exact date; sorry I couldn’t give the precise dates of a set of examinations I have nothing to do with. At lunch, I apologised for only providing homemade soup and bread. Later, I apologised to a stranger for the fact that we don’t have a dog (apparently children need dogs). And I haven’t even mentioned my e mails, in which I’m generally sorry to be bothering someone, or sorry it’s taken me a while to reply, or sorry for adding to someone else’s to do list.
So I’ve made myself a quick and simple translation guide. ‘Sorry’ is a powerful word that should carry meaning, not an auto-pilot apology for existence.
|‘Not sure I should be here’ language||‘I merit this space’ language|
|Sorry for the delay in replying||Thank you for your patience|
|Sorry I don’t have that information to hand at this moment, I’m actually in a meeting/at the supermarket/in line for Michelle Obama tickets, I’ve been really busy, but I’ll get it to you as soon as I get home
(when it is your responsibility)
Finish what you’re doing, get the information, send the information
|I’m really sorry I don’t have that information, I can ask around and get back to you
(when it’s not your responsibility)
|I don’t have that information|
|I’m sorry, I can’t remember off the top of my head, I’ll look that up for you now
(when it is your responsibility but you’ve put it all on charts on the back of the kitchen door and on everyone’s phones)
|Have a look at the sheets on the kitchen door|
|Sorry for troubling you||I hope you can help|
|I’m really sorry but I’ve got my child’s class assembly/concert/dental appointment that day, I can try and change it||I can’t make that date|
|Sorry to be a pain but||See ‘sorry for troubling you’|
|The thing is I’d rather not do a Tuesday morning, I can if it’s the only day everyone else can do, it’s only a music lesson||I can’t make Tuesday mornings*.
*I have had to stop these lessons for the time being
|I’m so sorry but I’ve got to go, I have to pick up a child from school/get to the supermarket/cry quietly in a corner. Sorry.||Could we arrange a time to continue this?|
|I’m really sorry it’s nothing fancy, it’s just soup and bread||I’m so happy you could come for lunch|
|It’s only from the supermarket I hope it tastes alright, I meant to bake something but it’s been so manic, sorry||Would you like some cake?|
|I baked it yesterday but it’s really lopsided, sorry, hope it tastes ok||Would you like some cake?|
|I know I shouldn’t feel upset about this||This has upset me|
I’m sorry this turned into such a long post, I’m sure you don’t really need all this but it helped me to write it down and if it strikes a chord with even one person I’ll be glad Thank you. Thank you for reading.