It’s a shame I have to say this, but it’s almost as if the world is in need of an “Apology 101” course! It’s inevitable that we’ll one day offend or be offended by someone. That’s the price we pay for living in such close quarters on planet earth. But we’ve all received the ubiquitous “I’m sorry” from someone and looked at them with the side eye, and wanted to yell out “Seriously?!”
Some of us did yell that out.
Well, I think it’s time to find out why merely saying “I’m sorry” can actually be doing more harm than good.
There are two types of offended people in the world: those who are waiting for an apology and those who will ask you for one. The first type is a lot harder to deal with because they expect you to know what you did, name it and make the first move. We’ve all been in this category before. So here’s why saying “I’m sorry” to someone in this state of mind never works.
First, you’re almost always sorry about the wrong thing.
That’s why you get that frowned up nose, stare down that says “are you serious?!” or the complete dismissal.
You can’t merely say “I’m sorry” to someone you know is upset with you. You must find out why they are offended. If they’re not willing to tell you, let it go.
That’s right. I said LET IT GO.
There’s no reason to continue to hound someone who’s in this head space. What you’re actually doing is proving their point. I can almost guarantee you that every time you come around with the whiny, “Did I do something wrong? Did I offend you in any way?” They’re looking at you and saying, “How clueless can you be?! You are so selfish!”
That’s why it’s best to leave it alone until they’re ready to confront you with the offense.
If they never do, then here’s the next thing you should do.
Apologize only for what is truly an offense and what you’re sincerely sorry for.
We’ve all heard the person who will say something like, “I’m sorry for whatever it is I’ve done to you. If I’ve done anything to offend you, please forgive me”.
Let me tell you quickly why this sucks.
First, what exactly are you sorry for? What’s “anything”? Can you be more specific? If you can’t, save the blanket, form letter apologies for your deathbed. This generalized apology only presents you as being self righteous and arrogant. For starts, you refuse to name what it is you’re sorry for, thus leaving space to repeat whatever it is that you did in the first place. Bad idea. Make apologies specific and sincere. Example, “I’m really sorry for calling you that name yesterday. It was disrespectful and hurtful. I’m going to work on my temper and make sure that when I’m angry, I don’t go on the attack verbally”.
Now, that’s an apology someone MIGHT listen to,
The second person is the one who will come to you and confront you with the offense. This is really the easiest type to deal with. They’re spelling it out. They’re taking you back to the scene of the crime. No CSI investigation needed. THIS is what you did wrong. Here’s why merely saying “I’m sorry” to this type of person gets you nowhere.
Do you acknowledge why this situation offended them?
Yes, you said “I’m sorry” but that’s not an acknowledgement, that’s a benediction. Everyone knows that after the words “I’m sorry” escapes someone’s lips, all conversation is supposed to cease.
You’ve taken back the manipulative power in the situation by dismissing them with an “I’m sorry”. Now, if they continue to talk, you take the seat of power as the one offended. This is usually evident in the words, “I SAID I’m sorry, ok?!”
Oh, so YOU’RE mad now? lol!
Bottom line is when it comes to an apology, pride needs to take a back seat. It’s amazing how we do our best to maintain our seats of pride when confronted with an offense or our wrongdoing. Sounds similar to our parents in the Garden, doesn’t it? You gotta love those folks who apologize for being human, for being themselves and for all the other things you know they’re really not sorry for. Gotta appreciate those precious souls who leave you feeling like you’re the one who did them wrong, example “I’m sorry that when I speak the truth it bothers you and that you can’t handle it”. HAHA! You gotta be kidding me!
Have a seat!
But there’s a better way to live and a better way to engage one another.
As I stated earlier, planet earth can be close quarters at times, so it’s only fitting that we learn the art of righting wrongs in the spirit of humility and sincerity.
The next time you find yourself about to reach for the generic “I’m sorry for whatever I could have done…” or “If there’s anything that I’ve done to offend you…” or the “I’m sorry, ok?! Geez…” think again.
That’s not an apology. That’s your pride talking.
And when someone’s been hurt, pride is the last voice they need to hear.
For all those folks who have ever had such a pride laced apology thrown at them like a fiery dart, I say on their behalf,  you can keep those to yourself.
It’s doing way more harm than good.
Learn to love.