Walking through the blues.

I’m Sorry…. REALLY?

Posted on August, 21st 2015 by Marie

Apologies are often used to manipulate others. Lately I have been watching out for this phenomenon, and sure enough: most sentences that start with “I’m sorry..” are about something else. And more than a few times, I have caught myself yielding to the temptation to fling some half-hearted apology for one reason or another. There are three main kinds of apologies.

  1. Excuses masquerading as an apology
  2. Passive-aggressive attacks hidden in plain sight
  3. Actual sincere apologies

Below are examples of lame apologies. These never actually made it out of my mouth or my e-mail box, but were caught in my mental spam filter. Thank GOD! The ones that did make it out, I am not sharing!!!

Lame excuse type one:

  • I am sorry I got this information to you so late. I have so much to do. I have a kid who is going back to school, the band is on tour, I am working on my book proposal, we have a new album coming out, I am moving and remodeling my office so my teen can have a nicer room, and I really don’t have time to do this, but STILL: I sat up late last night and worked on this to get it to you anyway.

LAME!!! The real message is: “I have such a busy schedule. Do remember to feed my ego when you reply. AND I hope you feel guilty for making me (who chose to be so busy with other things) do what I should have delivered to you a week ago.“

  • I’m sorry but I just ____

In fact, any statement that starts with “I’m sorry” and is followed by “…but” is a red flag. Watch for the excuse that is a hidden way of asking for sympathy rather than truly apologizing.

Lame excuse type two:

  • I am SO sorry! You know, I wanted to get this information to you, but I thought you didn’t want it. I mean, you told me a week ago that I sent too many e-mails.

DOUBLE-LAME!!! This really is a hit over the head for the person, who had hurt my feelings previously by complaining. So this time, I withhold information that the person needs to “show them” that I felt their request was out of line and counterproductive. This is passive-aggressive BS at its finest.

This kind of excuse has a devious twin that sounds something like this:

  • I am so sorry you feel that way. I really didn’t think it mattered that much to you.

Yeah, well the real message with this kind of apology is: “Your feelings are unimportant and ‘wrong.'”

The third kind of apology is from the heart. It is a sincere declaration of concern for the other person. It is about owning what I did that had the unintended consequences. It is about seeking to learn from it and not do it again. It actually is most efficient if it doesn’t even contain the word “sorry.” It is a word that is so easy to abuse.

  • When I found out I hurt you, it made me aware that I do this sort of thing quite often. It has made me reflect on it, and it is a bad habit of mine. If you see me do it again, please let me know. I want to learn from this, so I invite you to call me on it.

This kind of apology creates a sense of win-win. It takes courage to honestly embrace our vulnerability like this. It invites the other person to step into a process of learning together.

Now – a few days ago sitting in the car, I yelled at my 19 year-old son:

  • “Jeez kid, slow down. You drive just like I do.”

I didn’t apologize for that one, but I did have to tell him that it made me realize that my driving was at times a bit too fast. Looking in the mirror is always a hard thing to do. And the truth is it is difficult to accept in ourselves what we project onto others. And at the same time, it is the best way to go. Calling ourselves on our BS is never-ending. But the good news is that our own BS is the only BS we can efficiently control!

3 thoughts on “I’m Sorry…. REALLY?”

  1. Marie, FWIW I have make all of those apologies to myself. The third apology falls into the category of contrition and remorse. I feel bad for things I should have done to benefit myself but I didn’t do, many times because I was doing something for others or just plain tired or exhausted. I went to buy cat food today and some bananas. I like to eat a banana day. I got the cat food and forgot the bananas. If I were buying the bananas for someone else, I would have had to apologize to them. I was so busy picking out the cat food I forgot the bananas. You are right in that the cats are more important to me than my bananas or even the bananas for a best friend. The friend can live without the bananas. My cats can’t live without their cat food.

    Insofar as providing information goes, I have no real sense of time. When I was in business, gun magazines would regularly request information within a deadline that I never or rarely got to meet, The benefit to sending it to them is all mine. I’m a procrastinator and have always been a procrastinator. In college I’ve brought my typewriter to school and finished an important term paper seated outside the classroom door. I’m frequently late on paying my bills. Sometimes I pay them twice because I pay the bill and the follow-up warning. This gives me credit on the next bill.

    When Sandi ran the logistics of the shop for thirty years I got orders from her what to do and when I had to do them. She was the boss and I did them. It wasn’t that I wasn’t working before. I was just easily distracted. Many folks thought Sandi and I were married because of the way she talked to me. Her daughter Dawn calls me uncle, I love her and her daughter. But I need direction. My parents were bohemian types and I never got it from them. If Sandi wanted bananas and cat food, she would have given me a list and I would have gotten both. If not, I would be apologizing to someone for forgetting someone’s bananas. It’s not that I don’t like them, but my cats come first.

    A friend from China, that I emailed about a month ago, got back to me yesterday. He’s working at a restaurant in New York City. He apologized. He gets up at 6AM to take the train to NY. He works seven days a week to support his family. The restaurant closes at 11PM, but customers may still be are still eating. Sometimes he has to stay. If he misses the train, he has to wait sometimes over an hour for the next train. He apologized for not answering me earlier. Should I hold that against him? I sure don’t. I am pissed at the people complaining about their raw deal in life that he supports and they wouldn’t do that for their own families.

    Look, I love you and Walter and your family to death. You are an incredible family. Being east coast, I think you may be eating a few too many canola nuts out west. All apologies are good to me. It’s about how they treat you. I’ve had girls dump me the day after they told me how much they loved me. Sometimes apologies are expressed without words. Words have become almost meaningless to me.

    Didn’t want to post this except for your view. We both seek truth and truth is never about winning points.

    Love you all,

    1. Hey Larry,
      Thank you for your comment. I love dialogue. And I would agree with you that action often speak louder than words when it comes to apologies.

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"We are more alike than we are different. This is the story of the blues."