Elton John (or, in many instances, Bernie Taupin) has been right about so many things. Lots of fragile, attractive women have lived their life like candles in the wind. Life is, basically, a circle. And it’s pointless being a sculptor. You would be better off making potions in a travelling show.

But one thing he has got very badly wrong. Sorry is not the hardest word. If anything, if you are British, it is the easiest word in the universe. I say this as a reformed apologist who was only alerted to her addiction to saying sorry (and then apologising for having said sorry too many times) when she went into therapy. I realised I was spending a great deal of money on simply apologising to the therapist for my existence, for my lateness, for not having much to say, for having too much to say or for apologising for all these things. It was a sad, sad situation.

I made a concerted effort to stop. And instantly felt much better about myself. Life is much more straightforward when you stop these British language tics. “Sorry, could you just tell me the way to the station?” Why apologise when you are legitimately lost? If you mean “excuse me”, then say “excuse me”. “Sorry, you go first.” No. You have started. Don’t waste time. You go first. Just go. “Sorry, I didn’t see you there.” Open your eyes. Open your goddamn eyes. (OK, maybe this apology is necessary.)

These habits die hard. I bumped into a friend at the chemist’s last week, a fellow reformed serial apologist (or so she claimed). She was buying paracetamol for her child. The pharmacist was explaining that this wasn’t a great idea for a child. This conversation was quite lengthy. My friend kept turning to me and saying “sorry” because she felt bad for keeping me waiting. But the conversation was necessary, I was not annoyed and she was just doing what you do when you go to the chemist: getting advice and possibly medicine. (Not in this case, in the end, as the chemist refused to prescribe what she wanted for her child. No travelling potion for you.)

The point is: we treat sorry as if it’s the easiest word. We overuse it to cover up our embarrassment and to forestall anger. But people often have more patience than we give them credit for. And sometimes saying sorry makes bad people think they have a reason to be angry when they don’t. It’s time to stop. Let’s make sorry the hardest word again, just like Elton wants it. I hope he doesn’t mind that I’ve put that down in words.

Viv Groskop: Say Sorry to the Lady
is @ Stand 4 from Fri 7 Aug to Sun 30 Aug 2015 @ 20:20