About a year ago I heard something that would change the way I interacted with my friends. It was one simple piece of advice:
"After confiding in a friend about a problem, don't say "Sorry I'm rambling." Just say "Thank you for listening."
Wow. This advice was catered exactly to me. I am someone who relies on my friends and family for advice and guidance. Sometimes, I just need to get my thoughts out of my head. Sometimes I just need an objective opinion. And sometimes I just need to vent. However, I also sometimes feel prone to social anxiety, and confiding in my loved ones would put me a little on edge. This is why, at the end of my story, I'd almost always finish with:
"I've been talking for so long. I'm sorry for making you listen to this."
To which my friend would say, "No it's fine!"
And then I'd make some excuse about why I was so insecure and why I was struggling so much, and I'd walk away feeling a bit embarrassed I had just wasted that person's time with my unedited thoughts. I'm not sure my friends walked away feeling great, either.
When I read this advice about thanking them instead of apologizing to them, it was like a light bulb went off. Because this advice holds so much wisdom in it.
What perspective do you give when you apologize for just having wasted 20 minutes of your friends time? You are suggesting to a friend that you are insecure and unhappy about the exchange that just took place, and you are basically telling them that they just wasted their time! They probably didn't feel that way before you said something, they were probably happy to help you and hear about your life. And then in one sentence, you take away all of the value of the exchange that just happened by apologizing for it.
You basically sabotage the exchange, and bring the conversation BACK to your own insecurities. So them listening really did no good, because you're walking away from the conversation still as insecure as before, and regretting that the conversation even happened. What a depressing cycle.
Say "Thank you" instead and achieve 3 amazing things:
1) You are making it about THEM, not about you. Thanking them is acknowledging that your friend just did you a favor, and showing them appreciation for it. Apologizing makes it all about you and your insecurities.
2) You add value to the exchange- Thanking someone after they listened and gave you advice makes them feel like they helped. It makes them feel like they gave you something of value, and that their time wasn't wasted becauase it meant something to you. Saying sorry makes them feel like they didn't do any good, and like they served no purpose. No one wants to feel this way.
3) It establishes that there is nothing wrong with expressing yourself- Maybe the most important aspect of saying "thank you" instead of "sorry" is that it suggests that you didn't do anything wrong in confiding in your friend and asking for help. And the fact that these sort of exchanges are normal, healthy, and a sign of friendship is important for both you and your friend to recognize.
After I read this piece of advice, I put it into action. I really started to thank my friends instead of apologizing after rambling on to them. And I felt like not only did it help me to feel more confident, but it made my friends feel better and more eager to listen as well. They also seemed to feel less pressure to solve my problems, and like they could just listen and have that be enough.
Friends are supposed to be there for you. You are not always going to have things together. Why would we apologize for this, when it is so much more productive, so much more positive, and so much more human to express gratitude instead.