Saying sorry (as published in The Star Online on Friday June 8, 2007)
Learn all about the art of making an apology.
WINNING WAYS by DATIN T.D. AMPIKAIPAKAN
HOW difficult is it to say, “I’m sorry”? Many years ago we heard this famous phrase “love means never having to say that you are sorry” and we thought “wow, what a profound idea.” Think about this now and see how it affects the lives of everyone who is in love.
Imagine this scenario: You are in love and your boyfriend takes you for granted. He makes you wait, is perpetually late for appointments, has no regard for your needs and has no remorse for the trouble he causes you. To add insult to injury, all he says is “love means never having to say I’m sorry!”
Although this takes place between two people, you feel the indignation while reading this. If we were to follow suit, can you imagine the heartaches all around because we would then have the licence to hurt our loved ones and use the excuse of “love” not to show regret for our actions.
Why do we say, “I’m sorry”? Why should we apologise? When do we apologise? As part of good manners you say “sorry” when you have made a mistake or hurt someone unintentionally or intentionally and you begin to regret that. It is all about respect.
When you feel that your actions or words have caused someone pain, mental or physical, you regret the “lack of respect” that you have shown. Hence you feel the need to apologise. When you apologise you make amends, you are telling the person you have hurt that you regret your actions, and you do not want him/her to think badly of you because of your transgressions. That is the premise we work with when we apologise.
We often say “sorry” without thinking. We accidentally step on someone’s toes and we say, “oops, sorry”, and all is forgiven. We forget to do an errand and we apologise. We may even make some serious mistakes that cause other people to lose money, we become mortified and often struggle to find the right way to say “I’m sorry”.
When you make a mistake, say something out of turn or have hurt someone’s feelings, you need to examine the extent of your transgression.
How serious was it? Did you embarrass someone or are you more embarrassed by your action?
Who got hurt by your actions? If your transgression is detrimental to your reputation or your integrity, then rectify the situation quickly so that people forgive you.
There are times when the mistakes you make are so phenomenal that a simple “I’m so sorry” sounds inadequate. What happens if you kill someone by causing an accident? How do you apologise to a parent whose child you ran over? How do you apologise to a child who lost a parent because of your carelessness? In times like these, apologies are so difficult to make and when even one is offered, acceptance and forgiveness is hard to come by.
When you plan to apologise, you have to decide whether it is verbal and/or written. If it is a verbal apology, you need to consider the following:
The words you need to use
Your body language/facial expressions
The tone of voice
If it is a written apology, you need to consider:
The words you use
The tone of the letter
Whether it gets the right message through
If you want to apologise for a mistake, do it properly so that your apology is given and accepted with equal grace.
A sincere apology is done with insight. You should always run what you want to say through your head or share it with a friend so that the apology sounds sincere and thoughtful. When you apologise, look at your body language and facial expressions.
You have to look sorry! You have to feel bad about the whole incident and your face must show regret when you say the words. A bad apology is just like the one made by our two esteemed MPs for the faux pas that happened a month ago.
Take another look at the facial expressions in their photo. They had a smirk on their faces and looked so unapologetic that it was obvious they were forced to say sorry when they did not mean it. The bottom line – apologise when you really mean what you say!
The following is an example of a thoughtful written apology that was made when a serious injustice was done to a person and how a heartfelt apology made a difference to the relationship and put it back on an even keel. This is part of a long letter of apology:
“I’m writing this letter to say I’m sorry. This letter has been written a thousand times in my head, drafting and redrafting to try and put in words what I feel – sorrow, sadness, regret for my part in the injustice done to you over the years ?
“Just because I have written this letter, you don’t have to feel you have to ‘forgive and forget’. If you feel the time is not right or you still have some residual anger or feel unease or disquiet, it is your right and I respect that. All I want to do is atone and acknowledge a misjudgement. It has been a salutary lesson for me and I hope it will be a cautionary tale to our children that they should always try to do the right thing and be fair and just to all and not to take relationships for granted and abuse it.
“So as I begin, let me end by saying SORRY. When all’s said and done, what is SORRY worth? Sometimes it’s little – a token, a crumb, a throwaway line like ‘sorry I’m late‘. Sometimes it’s huge and terrible like: The White House is sorry for the collateral damage to civilians in Iraq in our ‘justified‘ war. I hope my sorry is somewhere in between – terrible but retrievable – like an honest broker trying to forge a connection between our estranged relationships.”
Say what you mean and mean what you say, even if you are trying to say, ”my humble apologies!”