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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

How many times would you have said sorry today? Sorry for being late, sorry for bumping into someone in the line for your coffee. Sorry for offending someone when you did not mean to. Sorry to your partner for nagging, again.Chances are, you said sorry many times but it is also highly likely that on many of those occasions you did not really mean it. Along with “fu*k”, “how are you” and “ok”, sorry would go close to being one of the most frequently used words in our vocabulary, yet the one which is also most often used mindlessly, ultimately undermining its value.

The ability to say sorry and mean it, at the right time, with authenticity is a crucial skill and one which emotionally intelligent people possess. Such people know the power that a authentic “sorry” delivers, allowing temporarily fractured relationships to be healed quickly as well as give the opportunity to express genuine regret about a behaviour or action which has caused another person grief, hurt or sadness.

The crucial components of a genuine “sorry” include an expression of sincere regret, an ability to imagine what the situation has been like for the other person in order to show empathy and it will demonstrate active attempts to rectify the situation. Most importantly, a sincere sorry must not include the inflicter attempting to justify their behaviour for any reason. All this does is again distract from the apology, undermining its value and sincerity.

Recently I witnessed a sorry that was said with regret, but not sorry for the grief that thoughtless behaviour had caused but sorry for finding themselves involved in a situation in which they then needed to say sorry. Such a sorry is easily recognized as inauthentic, and ultimately considered worthless. In fact, such a sorry tends to do more damage than good as an already damaged relationship is further broken down by more disrespectful behaviour.

And then there are the people who cannot say sorry - those who feel saying that word leaves them vulnerable and liable for something they are not prepared to take responsibility for. For the self righteous among us, those who remain stuck in an ego based existence, the inability to say sorry and really mean it is ultimately the thing that will prevent their relationships growing and flourishing as they are unable to empathise with others, to really consider another human being, to take responsibility for their actions. The sooner we can all move past this ego state, and really mean that we are sorry for the grief we have caused inadvertently or not, the sooner we can move on and ultimately rebuild relationships that are important to us.

Next time that you find the need to say that you are sorry, for a minor indiscretion or for a major hurt, take time to consider the power of these words. Practice saying sorry and really mean it, express your words with honesty and humility and issue these words as soon as you are aware that you have caused another pain. Not only will those around you appreciate it more than you can know, you too will ultimately feel better about yourself as a human being.