Emerging after 15 years in a serene therapy room, I spend my time in public now, traveling from therapies to work to business appointments to the grocery store. Arriving home, I often find a neighbor on the landing.
When crossing the paths of others, I find that most are polite, some are kind, some faces light up and smile at me. Some I sense watching me even though they aren’t looking directly at me.
A few times a day someone says, “I’m sorry” to me, almost always because they are taking up space that they perceive I want. It always gives me pause.
A man was at a clinical skincare training I attended. He was one of only five men in a room with a few hundred women. He was stirring his coffee at the coffee station. I made a cup of tea and waited my turn to access the honey and stirrers.
“I’m sorry,” he said to me, which surprised me.
“That’s ok.” I said.
“You have as much right to stir your coffee as I do,” is what I thought, but didn’t say. I smiled and allowed him space to stir.
I was descending an ADA ramp, and a woman pushing a stretcher carrying a large swaddled child was ascending it. I stood to the side as she pushed.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“Of course.” I yielded.
“This is your space. Know your worth. Thank you for taking care of that human. Peace and comfort to you.” were my thoughts.
I wonder sometimes if all the bad news is compelling us to apologize more than necessary. Maybe all of us who have experienced oppression in some form, or people who empathize with those who are suffering … perhaps we are feeling humility, issuing an apology for all the bad behavior society is experiencing, because suddenly the masks have been ripped off and we see it too. Is feeling the need to chronically apologize for being human a side-effect of awakening?
Perhaps we are just yielding to avoid conflict. Maybe there’s an element of fear.
If its a result of seeing with a more conscious lense, is this form of shame beneficial? My experience is that shame serves no one.
Perhaps there are situations in which it should be said, “You must have had a hard time because of the thoughtlessness of others. I apologize for humanity. I see that you are smart and know what to do. What can I do to be more supportive of your space that you have every right to exist in?”
One day at work I rounded a corner as a guest was coming around the other side, and we nearly collided.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry,” I heard myself say. I paused and remembered being forced to apologize as a child, and I realized this is an old habit that was conditioned into me, and it will take conscious effort to put down.
When engaging with others, what can we say that is more positive than, “I’m sorry?”
“I apologize” can be said if you have hurt someone, or did something thoughtless that inconvenienced someone. “I apologize” is an active statement. You are doing something. It’s an emotionally mature thing to do.
“I’m sorry” just kind of describes how you are. If you hurt someone, it’s not about you. Try to make it right for the other. Then forgive yourself.
“Hello” is always a positive greeting. It is acknowledging another without apology.
“How are you” is appropriate if you will be there a moment, such as at a coffee station. Only ask if you can listen to the reply.
“Excuse me” or “pardon me” is appropriate if you need assistance or must interrupt someone from their task. These are also appropriate to say when you need to exit a conversation or a meeting. It’s okay if that need is merely because you don’t want to stay.
“I love your shoes” or any fashion choice they are rocking. It makes others feel so good to hear their personal style and flare brightened your day. The phrase also has “I love you” in it, so it’s one of the most positive and high vibration things you can say to someone.
“My goodness you are the most beautiful person I have ever seen.” It may be a little extra in random daily meetings. I only verbalize it to loved ones. Sometimes I think it when I see light beaming from people’s faces, and the thought of their reaction to me saying it makes me giggle. It makes other people look at me with curiosity and joy, like they hear me loud and clear.
To change a habit, many alternatives can be considered. What are some other positive things you can say to strangers with whom you find yourself sharing space and time with? Please tell me in the comments.