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If you’re anything like me (or if you happen to be Canadian), then you probably use the phrase “I’m sorry” far too often, even when you don’t need to. Sometimes we do this because we feel it represents good manners, and other times it just comes out, a force of habit. I often catch myself saying “sorry” even when the other person is at fault, and I’m starting to realize just how much power I give away when I do so. I think our overuse of this phrase runs the risk of sapping some of its force, making it less impactful when we actually need to apologize for something we have done.

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Talented illustrator Yao Xiao portrays this idea perfectly in a few adorable cartoons which explain when saying “thank you” instead of “sorry” might actually be the better choice. So, take note all you Canadians and overly polite people in general, and replace your apologetic attitude with one of gratitude! Take a look below…

You may feel that, particularly when speaking with strangers or store clerks, using thank you instead of sorry isn’t plausible, but there is likely a way that you can still replace your sorry, even in these less emotionally charged situations. For example, “Sorry to bother you again, but…” could become, “Hey there, I was just wondering…” And if you happen to bump into someone accidentally, “excuse me” can easily replace “sorry.”

Interestingly enough, studies have shown that women tend to be more apologetic than men, particularly in the workplace, revealing a saddening trend of self-deprecation that many people are unaware of. In order to help both genders sound more assertive and avoid self-deprecating language, Google has since created a plug-in which helps users drop the apologetic tone in their emails and establish a more straightforward, authoritative approach to their workplace jargon.

The New York based artist who created these illustrations told Upworthy she was inspired when she realized how much she appreciated her friends, but that her gratitude may not have been being conveyed well with the word “sorry.” She then got to thinking, perhaps a thank you would be better. I think she is on to something!

A great way to incorporate this approach into your own life is to catch yourself whenever you are about to apologize for something and take a second to reconsider whether or not you have actually said something wrong — if you haven’t, then ask yourself what it is you really meant to say. It may take some practice, but over time you may just be able to save this word for when it matters most — when you truly are sorry!

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