I may have already lost you with the title this week, and I’m not sorry about that. 😉 I *am* sorry when I inadvertently step on your toe, cut you off in traffic, or ask “How’s your father?” and then learn he has passed away. Of course, having and expressing sorrow is a normal and natural thing. Being apologetic when appropriate or from a state of commiseration is lovely. But when I say “sorry is a sucky word,” it’s because of its flagrant misuse, which causes the word to have no meaning.
The thing is, it’s not the “no meaning” part of it that’s annoying; it’s the message the word *is* sending to our creative brains, and it’s not terribly healthy.
Here’s what I’m talking about: I’m teaching a class of creatives and an actor has a question. Hand raised, taking notes with the other hand, she waits expectantly for me to close off the thought I’m currently on then acknowledge her for her question. I do and she begins, “Sorry. What was that about the ideal number of clients per agent at a talent agency again?”
On the surface, I get it. She’s expressing that it *is* something I’ve just said and that she missed, probably due to writing down the thing I said right before that or for any other reason our brains don’t always process what we’re hearing as quickly as we’re taking it all in. Thing is, she’s not ACTUALLY sorry. She’s done nothing wrong. Even when the question is not about something *missed* the word sorry starts off the question an overwhelming number of times.
I’ll never forget being in Australia and working with a glorious class filled with eager actors and writers, brimming with questions and excited energy. The word sorry, for this group, was like an “um.” It was said so frequently and without actually *meaning* SORRY that I instituted a “Sorry Jar.”
Every time a “sorry” came flying out, a buck went into the Sorry Jar. To keep it fair, every time I said “fuck,” a dollar would go in from me as well. For those who know me, it’s no surprise the F-bomb comes fast and frequently with me — though certainly nowhere near as frequently as for, say, Lesly Kahn — and it is less used for emphasis, comedic effect, or actual meaning than out of habit. Just like the way these lovely Aussies were using “sorry.”
In my travels and teachings, it’s become clear that Australians and Canadians lead the way with the use of SORRY, followed pretty closely by the Brits. There’s something fascinating about the apologetic bent toward the act of asking a question — especially when the person standing in front of the room, ready to receive questions — is there for precisely that reason. It’s my job to be of service and to answer the questions you have. Yet this “sorry” thing — again, most often used as an “um” at the start of a question — may be doing harm on a deeper level.
Words have meaning, sure. And there is truth to the theory that we become desensitized to certain words’ true meanings when we overuse the words casually. But somewhere in our creative brains, the words *do* land and they do communicate something about, in this case, our right to show up in the world.
In working with some masterminders a few months back, I said, “We most often say sorry to mean ‘I showed up in the world when I felt as if I didn’t have the right to’ and that right there is some bullshit.” We have the right to show up. We have the right to be heard. We have the right to have a difference of opinion and express it mindfully. We have the right to actually BE sorry too, of course.
But when we’re apologetic about our needs, our wants, our desires, our opinions, our feelings, and our expression of all of the above, we’re telling our creative core that it should be playing small. That it should ask for permission. That it should apologize for BEING.
And that’s why sorry is a sucky word.
Are you apologizing for being? Check yourself. Get together with your accountability group and promise one another you’ll actually interrupt the convo when you hear a “sorry” and ask, “What are you sorry for?” Because using a word mindfully is okay. Using it mindlessly — and perhaps recklessly for what it tells your creative soul it needs to feel — is not.
We have a policy on Team Cricket Feet that when we answer an email that’s been waiting “too long,” we don’t lead off with, “I’m so sorry for taking so long to get back to you…” but instead with, “Thank you so much for your patience in receiving this reply.” Because honestly, if we were SORRY for how long it was taking, it wouldn’t take so dang long. It’s because of priorities and deadlines and ongoing projects as well as the surprises that hop to the front of the line begging for our attention day to day that it takes whatever time it takes for some things to be dealt with. It’s not a slight. It’s not something we did to someone else. It’s nothing for which an apology is necessary.
Nor is a question you may want to ask. Nor is an opinion you wish to share. Be fully present in the world and be unapologetic about it because the world needs you to have full access to your creative juices and that happens most easily when we trust that everything going on in our gut has meaning, is a part of a creative process that’s truly magical, and has the right to be out in the world.
Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001990.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.