You Might Be Saying Sorry Wrong

you might be saying sorry wrong

If you feel like you’re always saying “sorry”, you might be saying sorry wrong.

That’s the struggle “Jessica” had, and it made her life chaotic.

Struggling to Set the Dial

In some ways Jessica was a lot like the rest of us. She tried to find the right balance on how she reacted and struggled to get the setting right.

For instance, when are you kind to someone without being a pushover? If you dial too far one way you’re mean for no reason, but if you dial it too far the other way, people walk all over you.

She struggled with this in a few areas, including her fear of being walked on. When she felt the least bit slighted she would turn the dial up to 11 and stand up for herself. Unfortunately her perceptions were often just fear and she would quickly cause a rift in an otherwise good relationship.

This challenge of dialing the right balance affected the way she apologized, and if you find you’re like her, you might be saying sorry wrong.

Sorry, Not Sorry

Jessica dealt with apologizing in two ways. First of all, when she felt awkward or out of place she turned the dial up to 11 and would apologize profusely. Like a bird pushing a lever to get a pellet, she would instinctively keep hitting that lever to feel a sense of relief from her own inadequacies.

On the other hand when she did something wrong, she didn’t dial it down, but cut off the power completely. She wouldn’t say sorry to save her life. There was something about the word “sorry” to her that felt like she was giving up control.

Unfortunately, both her willingness to apologize over and over again for existing and her unwillingness to apologize when it mattered added a great deal of chaos in her life. Her inability to find the right setting on the dial caused her a great deal of grief.

If this makes you wonder if you might be saying sorry wrong, keep reading. It’s simple to know when to apologize, and I’ll show you how you can know in three simple scenarios.

Candace, Kwan, and Thomas

To find out when to apologize and when to not, let’s look at three people: Candace, Kwan, and Thomas. Each are average people who struggle just like the rest of us to get it right.

Candace has a good job. She works in an office and is vocal in meetings. When she speaks up she often apologizes for stepping in or taking too long.

Kwan works with people all day. Once in a blue moon he becomes distracted and shows up late to a business function. He apologizes for keeping everyone and vows to never do it again.

Thomas has a good marriage and a happy family. The other day, after a stressful day he yelled at his wife and stormed off for a few hours to get a few drinks. He realizes he’s completely in the wrong and apologizes.

Which of these people dialed it in wrong? If you said none of them or all of them, you might be saying sorry wrong.

The Three Types of Sorry

Each of these stories represents a different type of sorry. Each sorry should be handled differently. When you use the wrong method for the wrong sorry you can come off cold, manipulative, or like a doormat. Do it the right way and you can build strong relationships that stand the test of time.

Use these three types of sorry to know how to dial in your reaction:

  • Candace: Sorry for Existing – Candace is exhibiting the “sorry for existing” type of sorry. It’s an apology that highlights that you don’t feel valuable enough to be a part of whatever you’re a part of. You should never apologize for existing. If you are in a meeting and you have something to contribute, you shouldn’t feel like you need to apologize. Be happy with who you are and what you bring to the table and don’t apologize for it.
  • Kwan: Sorry for Inconvenience – If you are like most people, you probably got this wrong. Should Kwan apologize for being late? Probably not. Why? Because there is a better way. When you apologize, you put the focus on you and your failure. Instead, why not put the focus on the other party and their virtue? Instead of saying “Sorry for being late” say “Thank you for your patience”. Whenever it’s an issue of inconvenience, it’s probably better to say “thank you” than “sorry”, unless of course you do it so often you’ve fallen into the third category.
  • Thomas: Sorry for Wronging You – Thomas’ actions go beyond inconvenience. He wronged his wife. He treated her poorly. If he simply thanks her for understanding without apologizing and vowing to be better he’s being manipulative. Instead, he must own up to his mistake with an apology and discuss with her what he should do to keep it from happening again.

If you’ve discovered that you might be saying sorry wrong, I hope you will use these three simple examples to figure out where to dial in your sorry next time. You should never have to apologize for who you are, you should focus on the greatness of the other person over the failure in yourself when you can, and you should sincerely apologize and make it right when you have wronged someone.

Up until now you might be saying sorry wrong, but I hope after today you will find your relationships to be dialed in just right.

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About the author

David is a father, speaker, blogger (obviously), and author of How to Create Amazing Presentations sharing the tools, tips, and techniques of the experts to make you an amazing presenter, 7 Steps to Better Relationships built on the stories and lessons on this blog with seven easy steps to help you maximize your interactions with the people you care about most, and The Man in the Pit to help you care for loved ones struggling with depression.

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