I recently had a conversation with a friend about the use of the word ‘sorry’ and the whole concept of apologising. She really made me think about why we often automatically cast ourselves in the role of having done something wrong. Why do we do it so readily ? Is it humility, is it perceived as good manners to defer to the other person ?
Apologising is an automatic thing for many people to do. We do not even think about it. Saying we are sorry is second nature in many situations, but often there is no need to do it. We have nothing to apologise for. There are often other ways of handling these situations without automatically responding in such a self-effacing way.
A genuine apology for having done something wrong is a different matter. Guilt and being sorry are appropriate reactions in those situations. An apology can heal a situation by allowing the hurt party to see contrition and remorse and a desire to make amends.They can see and hear that the other person is taking time to consider their feelings and is going some way to try to put things right.
In some cases it may be important to be specific about what we are sorry for. It may be relevant to offer an apology for one aspect of our actions in a situation. For example, perhaps feeling that it was valid to say what we said, it needed to be said, but being sorry for the effect that the words have had or the damage they have caused.
Saying the word ‘sorry’ creates the impression in the other person that we are in the wrong and have done something that needs to be apologised for. But is that the case ? It can be a useful exercise to examine the situation and check if we really do want to present ourselves as the bad guy so readily.
Often the temptation is to explain ourselves, our actions and the reasoning behind them. Sometimes it is considered good manners or just plain consideration and respect for the other person to give a little insight into why we are, for example, changing an arrangement, but there is no real requirement to actually apologise so freely.
Sometimes it is more appropriate to just state the facts, ‘unfortunately due to work commitments I cannot attend’. There is no need to be sorry in that situation as nothing wrong has been done. A simple explanation is more than adequate to cover the change of plans. That way we keep ourselves in a better light, respectful but not unnecessarily contrite.
An apology can sometimes be used to good effect to defuse a potentially difficult situation, like anger. By apologising we can sometimes wisely calm someone down from an extreme reaction. If a person is reacting violently to a situation or has consumed a lot of alcohol then it can be a sensible move to do everything possible to soothe things along to a better position.
It is useful to be aware of what we are saying and doing and how we present ourselves in different situations. Being more mindful of how we come across, rather than automatically reacting and responding to triggers that occur in our lives is important.
Susan Leigh, Counsellor and Hypnotherapist