Saying “I’m Sorry” and Meaning It!

Do you know people who say, “I’m sorry,” yet continue the same offense over and over? A woman recently shared how much she disliked a friend who always apologizes for being late. Yet the friend continues being late for every occasion. Finally, she has given up on the person ever being a closer friend.

When you say you are sorry, you are supposed to mean it and make a conscious effort not to do it again. Over-using these words for every trivial situation — and especially for the same offense — diminishes its effectiveness, resolves nothing, and does not instill confidence toward rebuilding a relationship. Actually, it leaves the relationship with added frustrations.

“Love Story” author Eric Segal wrote the famous line, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” But this is not correct thinking. I loved my Dad (who passed away in 2007), but I never heard him say, “I’m sorry” for anything. He would ignore the situation through a number of silent tactics. It would have been nice to hear him say, “I’m sorry” when it was called for.

Instead, I gravitate towards the words of Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

“There’s one sad truth in life I’ve found
While journeying east and west –
The only folks we really wound
Are those we love the best.
We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest,
And deal full many a thoughtless blow
To those who love us best.”

So why is it that some people have such a difficult time apologizing? In seeking the answer, I found a great article by Brett & Kate McKay, titled: “How to Apologize Like A Man.”*   This article describes how difficult it is for men to say these two simple words, why men don’t apologize, when to and when not to apologize, and how to apologize. It’s an interesting perspective that applies to women as well.

When saying, “I’m sorry,” here are five simple guidelines to follow:

1.  Accept ownership and responsibility for your actions by admitting the mistake as soon as possible. Do not wait too long, as it will lose its impact.

2. Show sincere regret for what you have done by saying, “I’m sorry for…” or I apologize for… ”.

3. Explain why it was wrong to have done what you did, and how you see the damage and harm it has caused the relationship.

4. Ask the person to forgive you by saying, “Please forgive me.”

5. Finally, pledge you will do all you can to have this not happen again.

Apologies are meant to resolve the situation and rebuild a relationship. By practicing these simple steps, you are on the right path to retaining lifelong friendships.

Question: This tip came about as a result of polling people about their civility pet peeves. Several people submitted how they couldn’t stand people who constantly said, “I’m sorry” and apparently didn’t mean it, which prompted me to write this article. If you have civility pet peeves to add to my list, please share them. I’d enjoy writing about them.

*For those unable to use the link above, the article is also at:

Happy Practicing!

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