The Practice Saying I’m Sorry

Once a problem arises in a relationship, the best way to begin the process of healing the rupture and rebuilding trust is for the offending party to offer an authentic apology. 

On the other side of forgiveness is saying “I’m Sorry” –  Taking responsibility for something that you have done that has hurt, upset, or inconvenienced someone else.  Saying sorry is both over and underused, I have noticed.  And both the over and under use of “I’m so sorry” are connected to a person ultimately not being able to take responsibility for her actions.

I’ll clarify.  Clearly, you can see why the under use is a problem.  Some people go through life with little regard for the fact that they are sharing the planet with others.  They cut people off.  They say mean things.  They generally disregard others as human.  And, because they are not seeing the other people as people, they feel no need to be remorseful.  No need to stand up and take responsibility for the fact that they have hurt another human.  So, they don’t say sorry.

There are other people who say sorry a lot.   they say sorry because every time they don’t return your phone call and every time they under-deliver “so sorry! just wasn’t able to get to it.”  As a recovering over-user, I see that this is not a good thing because, by relying on “I’m sorry” to get out of trouble (again), I can avoid the hard work of taking responsibility for my words and actions and changing my behavior.

And THEN, there is “the girl sorry.”  The sorry that is not actually attached to having done anything wrong.  The “I’m sorry” we want to say first thing we open our mouths…just in case we might do or say the “wrong thing” in the “wrong way” at “the wrong time.”  It’s the sorry that is not actually apologizing for our actions.  It’s the sorry that is apologizing for our whole existence.

We really have to learn how to get better at saying I’m sorry.

According to the science of apology, there are 3 components of a sincere and meaningful apology…this scenario my resonate for you…

  • Expressions of empathy – I see that you are angry because of what I have done.  You are frustrated because I put you in a tricky position by not giving you what you needed on time.
  • Offers of compensation – I promise I will get you what you need right away.  And, I will make sure to honor your deadlines in the future.
  • Acknowledgement of the violation of social norms – I know I said I would have this to you by Friday and I broke that promise.  I am so sorry for that.

Tesla Look at MeWe are doing a lot of work with the proper and appropriate use of “I’m sorry.” I am doing my best to coach girls to notice when they interrupt someone or accidentally bump into another kid or use language that might hurt another’s feelings.  We actually practice talking and listening without interrupting.  We actually practice walking around a small space without bumping into each other (all the while I am side coaching, “Notice other people around you.  You are not the only one in this space.”) We actually practice asking questions and sharing our ideas and opinions in ways that do not judge or condemn other people.  This is the only way that kids can understand what they are saying sorry for when they make a mistake.

Here’s a scenario that might resonate for your daughter:

  • Expressions of empathy – I said some really mean things to you.  You must be feeling sad and probably embarrassed.
  • Offers of compensation – I promise to never call you that again.
  • Acknowledgement of the violation of social norms – I know that what I said was wrong.  They were mean words.  They aren’t even allowed at school.  Plus, they hurt your feelings.  I am very sorry.

We also remind girls over and over again to reserve their sorrys for when they actually make a mistake that hurts someone.

Me: Hey Go Girl!  Will you please bring me that piece of paper?
Go Girl!: Here you go.
Me: Actually, I meant the other piece of paper.  The one with the lines.
Go Girl!: Oh!  Sorry!
Me:  Please don’t say you’re sorry.  You only need to apologize when you do something that hurts someone.  Do you think you hurt me?
Go Girl!: No.
Me: Do you think you hurt my paper?
Go Girl! (giggles): No.
Me: Do you think you hurt my dog?
Go Girl! (even more giggles): No.
Me:  Then don’t apologize.  Got it?
Go Girl!: Got it.

This post is #19 of 25 Tips to Teach Your Daughter to Respect Herself, Command Respect, and Respect Others.  Wanna make sure you get all 25 Tips for Bullying Awareness Month?  CLICK HERE and we’ll send ‘em right to your email!

For more incredible Go Girls! resources for helping your girl stay safe, happy, and healthy in her relationships, check out Kidpower and get your copy of Starring Celia.