It’s a part of every woman I know. We learn it from a young age and it follows us until the end.

I’m sorry.

How many times do you say it everyday? Have you ever stopped to count? I tried once and quit when I got to a dozen before 10 a.m. A co-worker recently shared that her sweet 18-month-old (whose vocabulary is obviously limited) has started saying it — not because she’s done something wrong, but because she’s picked it up as a way to fill silence.

We all know there’s a better way, but habits are hard to break. So here’s a start: 37 things to say instead, broken up into different scenarios (with a section for littles, too!). Why 37? Because 38 seemed like too many. I’m not sorry.



  1. Pardon me.
  2. Excuse me.
  3. That’s mine.
  4. Can you please stop doing that?
  5. I didn’t see you there.
  6. That’s where I was sitting.
  7. You’re sitting on my bag/hand/leg.
  8. Excuse me, I was in line.
  9. Please stop touching me.
  10. I’m trying to get through/pass.



When speaking, either professionally or personally

11. May I interrupt you for a moment?

12. I wasn’t finished.

13. I’d like to say something.

14. Thank you for allowing me to interrupt.

15. I just need a moment.

16. Please allow me to collect my thoughts.

17. Are you upset with me?

18. Is something wrong?

19. It seems like something’s upsetting you.

20. I made a mistake.

21. That will take me just a minute to fix.



22. That does sound difficult.

23. No wonder you’re frustrated.

24. I’d be upset, too.

25. Do you want to talk about it?

26. I feel for you — what can I do to help?

27. How challenging for you to be put in that situation.

28. I don’t know why this has happened.

29. Let’s think of some solutions to this problem.

30. Do you want some help figuring this out?


For the little ones

(courtesy of that co-worker I mentioned!)

31. I’m amazing.

32. I’m beautiful.

33. I’m smart.

34. I love you.


For bigger kids 

35. Can we share?

36. I was playing with that.

37. Can I have a turn?


You’ll probably notice that these are all more direct ways of handling a situation. I think we often use “I’m sorry” as a buffer before we say things that makes us a little uncomfortable.

In the interest of saying what we mean and respecting ourselves, let’s all try to make the effort to save the “I’m sorry’s” for when we’ve truly hurt someone or done something wrong.

After all, that’s more meaningful anyway.