Living in Vancouver, hearing the words “I’m sorry” is as common as the greeting “hello”. We say sorry a lot – to the point where it’s almost an automatic reaction. The words are tossed around so frequently and casually that what should be powerful words really, have no meaning.
We say sorry when we accidentally bump a stranger in a coffee shop. We say sorry when we’re late. And when we make a royal mistake and end up hurting someone because of our actions, we use that same sorry. But the situations are completely different – yet we conclude with the exact same apology.
When you have wronged another and have caused insult, injury or hurt, sometimes sorry just isn’t enough. If you say “sorry” ask yourself what you’re willing to do to make a wrong, right. Perhaps that action is to change a behavior to avoid the same mistake from occurring again in the future. Perhaps it’s doing something nice to make up for the wrong. Perhaps it’s a heartfelt card or phone call that expresses your sincere care and compassion. Whatever it is, saying sorry and asking for forgiveness is only one step of a true apology.
Being accountable, making change, making an effort to do whatever in your power to make it up to the person – that is the action that backs up the words of “sorry”. It’s in the action where a true apology lies – not the simple uttering of the words.
Struggling to make an apology? Psychology Today blogger Sam Margulies sheds light on the necessary elements of an apology:
1. Acknowledge the Wrongful Act
2. Acknowledge that You Have Hurt his/her Feelings
3. Express Your Remorse
4. State Your Intention Not to Repeat
5. Offer to Make Amends – The particular act of contrition may be negotiated but the important thing is to express your willingness to do something by way of compensation.
6. Seek Forgiveness
It’s easy to say sorry. But actually having follow-through on your apology and the action to back it up is the part that takes effort and real sincerity. You show your character not by the words that come out of your mouth, but with the action of your feet.
So please, don’t tell me you’re sorry. Show me.
4 Replies to “The Sorry Syndrome”
Though I don’t follow your blog, as someone who commutes via transit, on occasion I read your (fellow) wordsmith content via 24 HOURS VANCOUVER. Often, I shake my head at how similarly we think — our honesty, and ability to hit the nail on the head.
Though my own blog doesn’t make me money, and I’ve decided my decision to not pursue writing professionally (make-up artist), kudos to you, Amy, for putting it out there.
As Canadians (particularly Canadian women!), we as a culture tend to say “sorry” a lot (and not just “sorry”, but “soooorreeey”). The word loses its effectiveness, becoming as common and annoying as the verbal tick “like” (and as annoying as … hipsters!).
It was for an act of unintentionally wounding someone’s feelings two years ago — a man who I liked and admired — that I made a point of acting on my contrition. I had been impaired & extremely angry at the time when I’d likely wounded him. Drinking t drown pain, mixing my poison with antidepressants and anxiety medication. DANGEROUS and EMBARRASSING!
I made a point of seeking professional help for what had lead to such behaviour (trauma, loss of a parent, alcoholism in the family, loss of a beloved pet, loss of my job), and it made a world of difference. I acted on my contrition. If I hadn’t wounded him, I’d likely be dead right now.
I have tried unsuccessfully to apologize more than a couple of times. It bothers me tremendously that someone who I liked, who made me laugh, was wounded by shrapnel not intended for them. They have not accepted my apology, but ignored or rebuffed me. (In fairness: they’re a local actor, and busy with their current success on an HBO Canada series.)
I don’t think I’ll ever feel “right” about the situation, even though they were not a significant person in my life. I wish that things were different, but am grateful that such had to happen, so that I could be as happy and successful as I now am.
I wanted to comment on your sorry syndrome piece as I feel it is something very close to my heart.
My thoughts rest on a couple points that were prevalent in my mind while reading your description.
Saying ‘sorry’ like ‘excuse me’ or ‘after you’ is a distinctly Canadian trait.
Canadians are known for being the most polite people in the world and I would wish our generation would carry on the tradition.
So many times I have been walking through Vancouver while observing people aren’t polite enough. People don’t hold doors open for others, are too busy socializing on their cells to watch where they are walking, and cut others off without apologizing and instead scoffing as if they ‘should have’ made way for them.
So maybe we can make a deal; I’ll say sorry and excuse me more and you say it less and well keep checking in on how we are feeling about our experiencing 🙂
As for the procedure for apologizing;
When you love someone, I believe, sorry is good enough. Sorry means you realise you have hurt the person you care about and for me to expect some kind of action like a material gift (although nice) is unfair and also pours more salt on the wound. I believe in true forgiveness and unconditional love. I feel this places an expectation of restitution when someone apologizes for hurting someone they care about and this list is generalising who it applies to.If we are expecting to be owed something then we can’t be taking about a truly loving relationship can we?
I think we had to make a distinction between a business apology and a loving apology.
Anyways I hope this makes some sense. I love these kinds of topics and hope we can converse further on it.
Thank you for starting the conversation. 🙂
I agree with you on the general “entitled” attitude of people and it’s unfortunate that these people never learned their manners or social graces. I think in the case of relationships, there are times when a simple acknowledgement and “sorry” will do. However, there are also instances where it isn’t enough and the words are merely used as lip service. To me, saying sorry but continually repeating the same hurtful mistake is not being sorry. I also don’t think that buying a gift after making a hurtful mistake equates to a true apology. I think if you’ve done something to hurt your partner, truly apologizing is to acknowledge, take accountability, make effort to change or avoid the repeating of the mistake and taking energy to try to “make things right”. How to make things right will depend on the situation and the people involved. It could mean a card, it could mean a deep conversation, it may mean putting in extra effort to show love, care and support.
Thank you for reading and for your thought provoking comments. =)