They seem to be the hardest words to say.
- You’re admitting a lapse in judgement or a mistake (For example: I’m sorry I was late)
- You acknowledge something you’ve done or said has hurt someone (For example: I’m sorry I hurt you by making fun of your hobby)
- You acknowledge others’ pain (For example: I’m sorry for your loss)
What happens as a result? Two things.
First, we apologize for foibles real and imagined, minor and major. For example: I’m sorry I had to blow my nose during your presentation.
Second, we append a qualification or explanation to apologies. For example: I’m sorry I was late, but I had to take the kids to school after dropping off my dry cleaning and getting gas.
In both instances, the intent of the original apology is undermined. The recipient wonders, and rightfully so, whether the apology is sincere.
I believe in keeping it simple. So,
When you need to apologize, simply say, “I’m sorry.” You could add a brief explanation, “I’m sorry I yelled at you.” But that’s it. Don’t add anything else.
Apologize when you’ve clearly hurt someone. Only then.
Apologize succinctly and sparingly.