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karen allen

Rewiring Your Brain for Fewer “Sorries”



If I asked you to count how many times you say “sorry” in a single day, where do you think you’d land? Five times? Ten? Twenty?


And what kinds of things would you find yourself apologizing for?


Not responding to an email in .5 seconds? Needing to take a call from your child’s school? Asking a question? Passing someone on the sidewalk? (For real, hands up if you’ve ever accidentally apologized to a store mannequin, a park statue, or your own reflection in a mirror because you realized you were standing too close to them. 🙋‍♀️🥴🤣)


Apologizing can be a sign of respect, consideration, and empathy. When we learn the art of an effective apology, it helps us deepen our relationships, strengthen trust, and hone our growth mindset.


But when we overuse apologies (really, do you need to apologize when someone else bumps into you?), we’re doing way more harm than good:


  • We’re undermining the impact of our sincere apologies for the things we really need to make amends for.

  • We’re disrupting our own self-worth—telling ourselves and other people that we’re not worthy of taking up space and being human.

  • We’re prioritizing our own feelings of discomfort instead of really considering the impact of our actions on other people.


I posted about this recently on LinkedIn in response to this spot-on post from Jade Bonacolta, founder of The Quiet Rich. “Sorry” became so ingrained in my vocabulary that I said it without a second thought. Even now, I sometimes have to catch myself before it spills out of me automatically, for things that I know I really don’t need to apologize for.


The key is, now I catch it.


 

Recognizing the Apology Reflex

Here’s the good news, for you and for me:

Sorry is a habit, and once we recognize a negative habit, we can retrain our brains to break it—even hardwired ones like the “sorry” reflex.

Our incredible brains are constantly forming new neural pathways, and that means unlearning old habits that are holding us back and learning new ones that will fuel our growth all comes down to brain training and small, regular mental reps.


When you learn how to notice your own thoughts, become aware of those default mental patterns that aren’t serving you, you can find new patterns to build in their place. That’s exactly what Stop & Shift did for me and why I wanted to share it with as many people as possible. I learned to recognize my unhelpful defaults, take a pause when I noticed those automatic thoughts and behaviors taking control, and then shift toward more intentional thoughts and behaviors—ones that aligned with who I really wanted to be.


Let me give you an example of what this looked like for me.


How to Retrain Your Brain

When I needed to reschedule a meeting with my team, my default used to be saying, “I’m so sorry, could we reschedule?”


Why was I apologizing? Well, I wanted them to know that I valued their time, that I realized this might be an inconvenience, that I wouldn’t make a habit of changing appointments on them.


But here’s what I realized: Apologizing didn’t really accomplish any of those things.


When I apologized, what I really wanted was to show my team that I respected them. Those apologies weren’t what conveyed my respect, though. They already knew I respected them. They knew because I showed them in our daily interactions. When I rescheduled, they didn’t see it as a sign that I was disregarding them. I didn’t have to tell them I don’t like having to change plans because I’d already showed them in our day-to-day interactions that I valued them and their time.


They already knew that I was human, because I brought my humanity to our entire relationship. They weren’t offended that I accidentally double-booked or that something had come up with Caleb that I needed to be present for because I’d always brought my full self to work—and part of that self they knew was someone who sometimes made mistakes and someone who always prioritized her son.


After I sat with that for a bit, I realized that apologizing actually didn’t accomplish what I thought it did: When I apologized for rescheduling, I was sending a message that I expected myself to be perfect.


  • When I apologized for rescheduling, I was sending a message that bringing my whole self to work was something negative.

  • When I apologized for rescheduling, I was sending a message that work was more important than any of the other things happening in our lives.

  • When I apologized for rescheduling, I was passing my discomfort to them by asking them to tell me it was okay.


And none of those things were reflections of who I am or what I believe. My apologies were saying, “I don’t have the right to have a beautifully messy life.” And if I didn’t embrace my own humanity, then how could I expect them to trust me when I told them that I embraced theirs? 


I want my team to know that they can be honest and transparent about what’s happening in their lives and that I will do anything I can to support them. But my “sorries” weren’t showing that; they were reinforcing the idea that there’s something wrong with being 100% Human.


The Power of Thank You

It was a habit that I needed to replace, because it wasn’t sending the message I really intended—which was that I respect their time, appreciate their support, and am grateful to be surrounded by people who want to work with me.


So when I realized I was about to apologize for rescheduling a meeting, I learned to stop, notice my own discomfort, and shift my response so that I said what I really meant:


  • Thank you for being flexible!

  • Thank you for understanding!

  • Thank you for letting me be human!

  • Thank you for being with me on this journey!

  • Thank you for being you!


By replacing "sorry" with "thank you for," we not only boost our own confidence but also cultivate more positive and appreciative interactions with the people around us.


This shift, multiplied across countless conversations, has the potential to create a ripple effect of kindness and understanding in the world.


Tools for Brain Training

It all starts with just a little brain training. If you’re looking for some new tools to help you get started on that journey, I’m here to help! Here are a few to get you started:


What habits are you looking to unlearn in 2024? Now is the time to put a plan in place that will allow you to make those changes, one small shift at a time! 



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Welcome to my blog. My hope is that every article will give you at least one tid-bit to help you shape your mind and your life in the most beautiful way possible. 😊

Hi, I'm Karen! 

Hi, I'm Karen.

I've made it my life's work to teach as many people as possible about synergistic trifecta of human potential and transformation: mindfulness, positive psychology, and neuroplasticity.

 

This fusion creates a holistic approach to personal growth, well-being, and resilience, empowering you to thrive, navigate life's complexities with grace, and tap into your fullest potential.


​​I've worked with companies such as Nissan, Golf Channel, Google, Universal Orlando Parks & Resorts, LG and many more. 

Whether I'm teaching from stage, in a conference room, or via Zoom, my #1 mission is to help as many people as possible tap into the power of their mindset and start living more fully. Because when you become better, you make the people around you better, and that's how you make the world a little better, too. 🌱 #BetterTogether

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