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Monday, March 07, 2005

"I'm sorry"

How many times a day do you hear this? How many times a day do you say it yourself?

Have you ever really stopped to consider whether or not you really mean it?

To me an apology is only sincere if it includes, or at least implies, three essential messages that I like to call the 3 R’s. It has to have all three, or the apology is empty and meaningless… essentially a lie.

Responsibility:
The acknowledgement that you have done something wrong. If you don’t believe you’ve committed an offense, why are you apologizing?

Regret:
Admitting to feeling bad about what you’ve done, or at least wishing you hadn’t done it. Again, if you’re glad you did it; your apology would be a lie.

Repeat offense:
The guarantee that you won’t do it again. Obviously no one can see the future, and you never really know whether or not you will actually do it again, but you should at least try not to. If you know you’re probably going to do it again next week, then again, your apology would be a lie.

If you accidentally bump into someone with your trolley in the supermarket, a quick “Sorry!” is called for… because chances are it meets the 3R requirements.

But often we do things to people that we know are wrong or hurtful, but we persist in doing them, knowingly and habitually, for whatever reason. Apologizing in such a situation is not called for. It wouldn’t be truthful, and therefore offering it would be a further offense.

So next time you’re about to tell someone how sorry you are, ask yourself if you really are sorry.