Ali McGraw to Ryan O’Neil in Love Story: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
That famous one-liner set real intimacy and personal responsibility back by bounds.
We screw up. We trample over people’s feelings, we let our insecurities get the best of us, we make big fat unfair assumptions based on the past.
If you’re interacting with other humans in even the slightest way, you will at some point have good reason to apologize.
But sorry is one of the most misused words there is. We’ve diluted it. We need to give it back its power. Sorry is a powerful word that sends a very particular vibe to your brain. I’m careful how I use it. And when I do, I mean it with all my heart and I’ll do what ever I can to make things right. But I rarely regret things. I rarely pity people. And I’m almost never sorry for how I feel (thanks to a lot of therapy.)
sorry: 1. feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc. 2. regrettable or deplorable; unfortunate; tragic. 3. sorrowful, grieved, or sad. 4. associated with sorrow; suggestive of grief or suffering; dismal. 5. wretched, poor, useless, or pitiful. 6. (used interjectionally as a conventional apology or expression of regret): Sorry, you’re misinformed. Did I bump you? Sorry.
Do not say it if you don’t mean it.
Sorry is often used as band-aid for social discomfort. It eases the blow when we say no to someone, decline, or back out. Sorry can actually complicate the exchange. It’s unnecessary gooey-ness. Just leave it out and stand by your truth with grace.
To the salesperson: “I’m sorry, I’m not interested today.” Why be sorry? You’re simply not interested. If you genuinely wish you could help them with a sale, then say just that.
“Sorry to bother you…” Why assume you’re a bother? How about, “I hope I’m not bothering you, but …”
“Sorry you feel that way.” This is a very tricky usage because ultimately, you’re not responsible for other people’s feelings. If you were a genuine jerk and you hurt someone’s feelings, then really step up to the plate with something like, “I’m so sorry that what I did made you feel that way. Yikes. I wish I’d been more sensitive. I won’t do that again.”
But thanks to psychobabble and supposedly useful “communication skills”, the “sorry you feel that way” phrase is often just a dupe… it’s not an authentic apology at all. It’s condescending placation that is supposed to disarm someone who’s pissed off. Someone tried to use this on me once. They’d gone behind my back on an issue. I confronted them and said it was completely uncool. “I’m sorry you feel that way,” she responded. Oh reeeally?
Your word is your wand. If the word fits… and ONLY when it fits… use it with all your heart. When you’re sincere, there’s usually no apology necessary.