<span class='p-name'>Thank You. I’m Sorry.</span>

Thank You. I’m Sorry.

Last week we had our first meeting of the BARWE 2021 Summer Series. We were joined by representatives from Black Lives Matter at School.

In this post, I’ll identify two of my lessons learned from this first session that I’ll try to work into my everyday interactions with culturally diverse communities and individuals. In these two areas, I’ll work to identify it in my behaviors, work to correct it, and then maintain it in my daily interactions.

Communication isn’t as simple as just saying what you mean. How you talk and interact with others differs from one individual to the next. This is because language is learned social behavior and how we talk and listen is deeply influenced by our cultural experiences. The ways in which we normally or naturally communicate are usually only normal and natural or us or the groups in which we interact.

Although we might think that our ways of saying things are neutral, but they are often viewed in different ways by others. Judgments about confidence can be inferred only from the way people present themselves, and much of that presentation is in the form of talk. In this post, I’ll talk about my usage of Thank You and I’m Sorry.

Thank You

One of the speakers on our panel brought up the desire we all have to hear someone else thank us for the work we’ve done.

This could be in a workplace setting or interacting with family or friends. In the context of this session, it was around the expectation that some white people have as they try to do the work and engage with anti-bias or anti-racist critical, reflective practices.

While we’re at work, we do our job. We don’t wait for the boss to come over and thank us for showing up. As a parent, my partner and I don’t expect our kids to thank us for knocking out the mortgage or keep the lights on. We should just engage in our work, and not expect people to be there to thank us for showing up.

A “thank you” is a complicated topic. On the surface, the “thanker” is seeking to celebrate another. There are also some assumptions made in the act. It implies that the thanker is conferring approval on another’s actions since they’re in charge. This establishes or challenges power dynamics and the culture of the interaction.

I’m Sorry

I have a really bad habit of saying I’m sorry. I regularly say that I’m sorry for events that I wasn’t even involved with.

As an example, when advising students, we’ll often chit-chat at the beginning of a session and they’ll bring up some complaints. For some reason, I feel like to need to apologize or find some way to address or fix the solution.

I’ll most likely still work to help others address a problem or situation. But, I need to stop saying that I’m sorry.

In her book, Beverly Engel suggests that over-apologizing sends the message that you lack confidence and are ineffectual. It can also lessen the impact of future apologies. Research suggests that it lessens my self-esteem and it really just irritates people.

When you say “sorry” you’re not making assumptions about another person’s actions but communicating your own feeling, which is all you can really be sure about.

Finding Gratitude

Saying I’m Sorry and waiting for Thank You are cultural components that we need to pay attention to and change the ways in which we interact. These social transactions are a way to center ourselves in the power dynamic and take up space.

Please note, there is an important time, tone, and place for apologies in our everyday interactions. We’ve also recognized the need to privilege care as our lives are disrupted by events in and out of our control. Little challenges constantly arise and expressing gratitude does some of the work worthwhile.


Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

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