I’m Sorry Isn’t an Apology


So I took a week off from blogging for a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t have much to say, and the Valentine’s Day post seemed to get a lot of attention (though I may be misreading my spam folder).  The other is because I’ve been horribly busy (and in this business, when in time of feast you feast to prepare for possible famine). Anyway, I bring this topic up because I even found myself saying “sorry” to my wife for things I did (no, not for having a lousy Valentine’s Day…that was actually really cool), and I found a very peculiar thing.

I didn’t mean it.

Now granted, just because that’s what happened with me, doesn’t mean its what happens with everyone. However, I found that the more and more I looked at the reasons why I said I was sorry, the more I realized that “I’m sorry” wasn’t really what I was trying to say. Most of the time I was saying I’m sorry because of one of these reasons:

1. I realized that I was wrong and didn’t want to face it

2. I just wanted her to stop bugging me about something I knew I was wrong about

3. I wanted to use some words to placate her so that I could put off what she wanted me to do a little longer

4. I said it, knowing that she trusts me, and I had no intention of changing, despite what I said. I knew she would accept it at face value and let it go if I said I was sorry.

Now granted, these situations are few and far between, and I make them sound worse than they actually are. But I have a question for you, dear reader…

Sound familiar?

From where I sit, “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean much in American culture anymore. If you really think about how many times we say it, and how many situations we’ve used it in, is there truly a moment when we use I’m sorry to ask for forgiveness with the purpose of actually doing our best to ensure that it doesn’t happen again?

Accroding to a research study done at Cornell University, when it comes to insincere and sincere apologies, “targets of such apologies are not likely to respond differently.” Since people don’t respond differently to apologies, whether we mean them or not, it would make sense as to why we continue to use insincere apologies. In fact, they assert that the reasoning behind using insincere apologies are to feel good about oneself and to be seen positively by others.

Both of these reasons have nothing to do with what you’ve done to the other person.

So how should we apologize (and remember, should is fantasyland until you do something about it)? Well, this is how I’m going to apologize from now on, in order to ensure that I mean it when I say it:

1. I realize that what I did was wrong

2. I realize that what I did hurt you deeply

3. I want to continue to have a positive relationship with you

4. Therefore, I am going to ask for your forgiveness

5. And in a good faith effort, endeavor to rebuild your trust by never doing what I did to hurt you again.

That’s a lot, but we’ve condensed it down because its easier to say I’m sorry than it is to actually apologize.

What do you think? How do you apologize? Are your apologies sincere or insincere? Let me know what you think.