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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

Positive Interactions Better than Being ‘Sorry’

When crossing the paths of others, I find that most are polite, some are kind and some faces light up and smile 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 skin care 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 a surgery center 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 in the media 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 sffering, are feeling humility, issuing an apology for all the bad behavior society is experiencing. Is feeling the need to chronically apologize for being human a side e ect of awakening?

If it’s a result of seeing with a more conscious lens, is this form of shame beneficial? My experience is that shame serves no one.

Perhaps we are just yielding to avoid con ict. Maybe there’s an element of fear.

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” describes how you are. If you hurt someone, it’s not about you. Try to make it right for the other, and 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 co ee 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. ese 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; it makes others feel good to hear their personal style and are 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 nd yourself sharing space and time?

Lucretia Robison is an Emory-trained health and wellness coach, a bodyworker of more than two decades, a writer and a blogger. If you have a personal story of awakening that you’d like toshare in Walking Each Other Home, please contact [email protected]. This column was originally published on

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