“Sorry” is quite possibly one of the most pernicious words I hear in regular conversation. When used in its truest sense, a sincere sorry is lovely – both strong and vulnerable in the way in admits and accepts responsibility, or empathetic in the way it expresses understanding. These uses, however, are heard with woeful infrequency.
More often than not I hear sorry used as reduction term, as a form of pre-emptive verbal submission. We say sorry when we give an opinion, say sorry for asking for help, say sorry before speaking up in meetings, say sorry as a way to fill silences between sentences. On one hand, this compulsion can be seen as a throw-away word. We have lots of those, little words we use to fill in sound space when our brains are working. The danger of using sorry as a filler or an opener is that is has the same effect on our thinking as standing with our shoulders hunched and gaze low. It diminishes us in our own mind.
Whenever I have heard sorry used as someone’s go-to opener when they begin to speak, it has never resulted in them giving the impression of confidence or competence. This is unfortunate; one of the worst offenders in my circle of acquaintances is a remarkably competent man who gives good ideas and input. Yet instead of presenting his thoughts and ideas fearlessly or with pride, he physically and verbally shrinks, peppering his phrases with sorry.
Don’t be sorry for what you have to say. Don’t even think sorry for what you are going to say. Don’t think or feel sorry for giving your thoughts voice or for “taking up” your listeners time. Putting your ideas forward is an act of generosity, and conversation is an act of sharing. So share without restraint. You can be polite without being sorry, so for everyone’s sake, do so!