You don’t even know the meaning of the words “I’m sorry” (Illegal -Shakira)
I Am Sorry. Three words that are for what I believe are more often misunderstood than that other famous threesome. What does it mean to be sorry? It’s an expression used in a whole lot of different situations, from funerals (I’m sorry for your loss) to being late (I’m sorry, I missed my train) or being offended (I’m SORRY?!)
First of all, I believe it’s important to state a certain fundamental difference between Excuses and Apologies. Both make use of IAS (I Am Sorry), but one category is almost entirely devoted to taking the blame off one’s own name while the other is concentrated on admitting the blame. In a way they can be considered opposites, despite the similar choice of words.
I could fill a book about Excuses (I’m a pathological liar, klutz and latecomer, so you can imagine I have quite a bit of experience) but today I rather want to talk about Apologies. You admit a fault, a mistake, and with your words you intend to express something. The question? What.
In the title I mentioned two concepts that often get confused. Regret and Guilt. Once again there is a substantial difference. I had a conversation with Experiment No.7 lately about the meaning of an apology. He told me that he often has a hard time dealing with mine (when I make them) because I don’t feel guilty. Translation: the admission that I caused him an inconvenience does not make me feel bad about myself. This is a general thing for me, I think I can safely say that for as far as I remember I have never felt “guilty”. Does the lack of guilt make an apology inherently worthless? Not in my opinion.
When you don’t feel bad about what you did, people tend to think you aren’t really “sorry”. That is not true. I tend to think when I apologize, it is an expression of regret rather than guilt. I acknowledge the inconvenience I caused someone else, and I also acknowledge that I would have rather seen this inconvenience not occurring. It is regret that someone else has trouble with my actions. In brash terms: “Don’t like me? Your loss.”
What is the true objective of an apology, one can ask? Is it to acknowledge that YOU did something wrong, or is it rather to acknowledge that THE OTHER has a problem with your behavior?