March 2009


We are nearly there folks. Here is #6 – and the most uncomfortable phrase I can think of using. It is difficult for me to, a) be wrong and b) actually admit it. But I do it, and so can you!

I Was Wrong

“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.” – Peter McIntyre

Of all the phrases I have the most trouble with “I was wrong” pretty much tops the list. It can be so darned hard to admit I am wrong about something! Perhaps it is the perfectionist in me. I hate to think of not being right. Pair it with the double whammy of “I’m sorry, I was wrong” and it sometimes actually hurts to say the words out loud.

Yet to admit that you were wrong takes courage. It takes a level of maturity and a confidence from within to say, “I was wrong.”

For many it seems to be a point of shame – it as if you are admitting to being a failure. It is humbling, but it also shows a depth of character that others will eventually envy you for. Yet saying those three awkward, difficult words helps move the process of learning and recovery forward with a large leap. Benjamin Disraeli, a former British prime minister and novelist once said, “One of the hardest things in this world is to admit you are wrong. And nothing is more helpful in resolving a situation than its frank admission.”

Say the words and then stand tall. Be proud of yourself for admitting that you don’t know everything and that you aren’t always right. It is a big first step towards becoming a stronger, well-grounded person who is approachable and willing to learn new things each day.

Exercise: Practice the Six Phrases

It’s time to buck up and try these out in your own life. Over the next few weeks try out each of the six phrases. Some may come easier than others or be phrases you already use. Challenge yourself to say them in an honest and forthright manner. Just to review, those phrases were:

I Don’t Know

I Need Help

I Don’t Understand

I’m Afraid

I’m Sorry

I Was Wrong

If you have been keeping a journal, log your thoughts on the following questions:

How did you feel when you said them?

How did others react to your speaking them out loud?

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Okay, this is my second least favorite phrase. #5 of 6 is…

I’m Sorry

“Play fair. Don’t hit people. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.” – Robert Fulgham

“I’m Sorry” seems to be a phrase of extremes – it is either over-used or not used at all. I wrote an essay once complaining about the over-use of “Sorry” from my children:

“I can hear you saying now, “What’s wrong with ‘sorry’? I’m always trying to get mine to apologize when they make a mistake or offend someone. Why wouldn’t you want them to say they are sorry?”

What I am speaking of is the one that comes out as a whine, “Sorrrryyyyy”, or as an impudent exclamation, “Soreeee!” They aren’t sorry; they are simply blowing hot air out of their lungs at the same time as they wonder why in the world you could be so insensitive as to pick on them at this particular moment and time.”

I had a rather temperamental woman working for my housecleaning business. It was her habit to preface all confrontational statements with, “Well, I’m sorry, BUT…” I grew to dread those words, let me tell you.

The other side of sorry – that of not saying it at all – is just as bad. My husband is guilty of this. He’ll even come up with excuses for not saying sorry. It has often caused me to wonder if he would suffer actual harm from saying those two words! That said – I’m as bad as he is. I’m the master of the backhanded apology. The one that goes something like this, “I’m sorry I got annoyed with your constant whining and interruptions. I’ll try to be more patient in the future!”

All humor aside, “I’m sorry” is, as I said earlier, a phrase which should be used in moderation. It is a careful balance to find and it is different for each person. If you use it too often, consider cutting back. Most sentences should not start with, “Well, I’m sorry!” If you are an individual who doesn’t say it much, it can be rather shocking for those around you, so there’s no need to be particularly effusive.

“I’m sorry” said in moderation can be transformative. It allows you to address a glossed over hurt or wrong you may have inflicted on another without meaning to. It validates the other person’s right to have feelings and recognizes the need for respect and tolerance within each of us.

When said earnestly, with heartfelt apology and concern for another, it can serve as a release for both of you and allow you to move on and forge a stronger relationship. It proves you to be a better person, one who isn’t afraid to admit, “Hey, you know what? I screwed up. I made a mistake or I hurt you inadvertently. But I’m capable of learning from it and moving forward. Please accept my apology.”

That makes you stronger. It makes you a better person, inside and out. Give it a try and you will see what I mean.

Coming next week…#6 – “I Was Wrong”

How often do we talk about our failings or our insecurities? Not often enough. Here is #4 of the six phrases you shouldn’t be afraid to say…

I’m Afraid

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

“I can’t go into those places and just sell myself.”

“Why not?”

“I’m afraid.”

“What is it that you are you afraid of?”

“I’m afraid I’m not skinny enough or pretty enough. They’ll look at me and think, ‘Her at the front of a class motivating people? I don’t think so.’

“So you are afraid they will reject you based on your looks?”

“Yes…and” [long pause] “I guess I’m just afraid of being rejected in any form. I keep telling myself, the worst that they can say is ‘No’ and that I shouldn’t be afraid. But I still am.”

Even the most confident person can have fears. The conversation above was between me and my peer coach, Tricia. We were discussing how I could market myself in local yoga and Pilates’ studios. All I could think of was Tricia’s smiling face and peaches and cream complexion. Sure, it was easy for her to go to a yoga studio and pitch her classes. But for me to do so? That short, overweight, bad-complexioned, frumpy me? The thought of it was, well, terrifying.

Of all the six phrases, “I’m afraid” seems to be the farthest from being ‘strong’ or ‘liberating’ – but even this admission has its place. If you look at your life and how you want to change it – or even just realizing the need for change – you will find the cracks begin to appear. We are not as strong as we want to be, as brave as we wish we could be, or as on target as we hope to be. We are a work in progress, each of us.

By acknowledging a fear, however small and insignificant (or large and overwhelming) it may be, we turn our attention to it. Instead of ignoring the fear and hiding it away, it is there, in the open and demanding we pay attention to it. Sometimes focusing our intent upon a fear, and asking “And then what?” allows us move towards conquering the fear and removing another obstacle from our path.

The admission of fear can be a catalyst. For me, I recognized that, even though I was afraid of rejection, by not putting myself out there and marketing myself in ways that I was uncomfortable with I was in essence rejecting myself before the fact. As I analyzed our discussion in the week following I came to realize that it was essential that I change my approach and push beyond my comfort zone. A few weeks later I showered, put on makeup, did my hair, and wore an outfit I felt confident and pretty in. I walked into six different studios and promoted my classes and life coaching services, effectively conquering my fears of rejection by attacking them straight on.

It’s okay to be afraid. It’s natural. In some cases it can serve as a boundary between what you will do and what you simply unwilling to do. For example, I won’t become an entomologist (a scientist who studies insects) or learning snake-charming anytime soon. I recognize my fears of such creatures and have no inclination to change my views.

However, I did recognize my need to overcome my fears of marketing my classes face-to-face with other people – especially those who I deemed prettier, shapelier, or more weight-appropriate than I. I realized I needed to be effective in person as well as over the phone or via email. Use your fear to your advantage. Recognize it, accept it, and then avoid fear-inducing events or turn them to your favor and conquer them.

Coming next week…#5 – “I’m Sorry”