I’m so, so, so, sorry [CARTOON]


I’m Yves and I practice conversations with people.

I’ve heard someone say something like: “it’s not the things we say, but the the questions we ask.”

Today I want to share one of those questions, which has helped me reinvent conversations.

Imagine having a packed day at work, traffic was crazy on the way in and – after two meetings and some quick e-mails and calls in between – you made it all the way to lunch time.

As you sit down to have lunch, you look at the time and say “Damn it“.

You already know you’re not going to make your next appointment on time.

You send out a text that you’re going to be 15 minutes late.

Now that you’ve notified the other person, you take your time to enjoy your lunch or maybe, you already have a mix of stress, guilt, shame, blame and anguish going on inside yourself, with the accompanying thoughts:

“I have just too much to do.”

“Why am I always too late?”

“People can’t rely on me, I’m incompetent.”

(…)

After having finished lunch, you get up and walk to the meeting room.

You are ready to open the door and start a conversation.

And now the million dollar question is:

What are the first words to come out of your mouth?

Maybe you feel frantic or stressed and have some guilt and then these words come out:

“Ooh, I’m so, so sorry, I got stuck in traffic and boy, it’s been a crazy morning…”

Or maybe you want to focus on getting things done, now that you’re finally here:

“Ok, I’m here, where are you guys at, so I can jump right in!”

Or are you more a fan of charming your way into the conversation:

Sorry I’m late and I’m so glad I’m here. Wow, you look great today! [insert cheesy smile here]”

I myself have tried all of the above and many more over the past years.

The things I said usually left me a bit unsatisfied afterwards.

Probably because of a combination of my words, the rushed or awkward energy I’m carrying, and me not really taking the other person into account.

So I usually got a reply like “don’t worry” or “it’s fine”. Sometimes it sounded sincere, and sometimes I wondered:

“Do you really mean that?”

So I started a quest to find something that would meet my need for:

  • Self-responsibility: acknowledging that I am late
  • Compassion: I would like to keep away from blame, shame, guilt & punishment
  • Consideration & Equality: hearing how my actions impacted the other person

After months of researching the latest neuroscience (studying my own brain), and experimenting with a couple of approaches, I’ve found something that seems to work for me and the people around me.

Now, imagine opening that door again to enter the appointment that you’re late for.

Take a breath and connect to your yourself and become curious to how your actions have affected the other person.

From this curious place, you can check in with this sentence:

“How is it for you that I’m late?”

That’s it: one sentence to reinvent the whole conversation.

I’m pretty enthusiastic about the results in my life, and I’m curious:

Would you like to try out this question, the next time you’re late?