Here's How You Should Apologize

January 3rd 2016

Taylor Bell

"I'm sorry." Justin Bieber sings it in his hit song, and we say it every time we do something wrong (or even when we haven't wronged someone). Saying "sorry" is not a problem, but we might want to reexamine our tendency to be overly apologetic. To demonstrate this illustrator Yao Xiao created a series of cartoons to show why we may need to rethink saying sorry to express our remorse.


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When we say sorry we are acknowledging our mistake and absorbing all the blame. In doing so we hope to win over people's favor. The more we beat down on ourselves, the more it looks like we are accepting responsibility for our actions and that other person will forgive us for whatever wrong we have committed.

But instead of beating yourself up or trying to convey how much of a terrible person you are, Xiao says it's better to express gratitude to the person bearing your wrongdoing. When you do this, it helps foster a better relationship with the person you have offended.

"A few friends of mine would always say 'thank you for hanging out with me' and I couldn't figure out why it was so nice to hear it," Xiao told A Plus. "When I thanked people, it brought to light the fact that we just did something together — and that realization made us both happier."

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In her comics, Xiao draws a few scenarios where she turns a remorseful statement into a grateful statement.

For example, it's common to say "I'm sorry" when you're running late but how about saying something like this instead:

Yao Xiao comics

Or sometimes we feel we are inconveniencing people by taking up their time, so again, we say "I'm sorry." Instead, we should try something more positive.

Yao Xiao comics

Maybe we feel need to apologize for being "such a drag." But according to Xiao we should not focus on this negative aspect.

Yao Xiao comics

"To me it is not about correcting behavior, it is about taking an extra step when you are capable," Xiao told A Plus. "I know that when I say 'sorry I'm taking up so much of your time,' I just want to hear someone say 'it's okay, and I like spending time with you.' It comes from the same place, and people understand it. That's why I chose 'If you want to say thank you, don't say sorry.'"