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Sorry for What Exactly?

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Have your found yourself adding a “sorry” into your conversation when it really is not the precise thing you are wanting to convey? I have, too often and for way too long. It can show up in the most everyday moments such a getting an invitation to something you can’t or don’t want to attend and starting your response with”Sorry but...” Why offer an apology for simply stating a fact or truth? Why does a response like: “ I’m unable to go” Or a simple: “No, thank you” not suffice? Have you also noticed that you might vehemently disagree with someone and, during the discussion, you throw in a “sorry but” as you move into your point of view? What are we sorry for? Are we really sorry for disagreeing? Being apologetic for a point of view is like trying to have it both ways and letting the fear of the others reactions mask our simple, clear truth. The overused “sorry” does not lend itself to deepening relationships; instead it fortifies our masks and personas while cleaving a small space of dishonesty between us.

Lately I have been observing this phenomenon in myself and others.

Saying we are sorry in a sincere manner for something we are truly sorry about is a beautiful sharing of truth however there is a lot of daylight between a meaningful, heartfelt “I’m sorry” and the kind of “I’m sorry” that is deployed to soften the blow of a clear, direct response to someone. I would argue that we show more respect to others when we don’t add opaque screens to our language such as “I’m sorry but...” . We can do this while still being 100% polite and respectful.

Words are powerful and while our thoughts and emotions shape our words the converse is true; our words shape our emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Words have a deep and often unknowing influence on our behaviors and while this is the domain of linguists and neuroscientists, it doesn’t take a PhD in either to observe that we create speech habits that impact our cognition and behaviors. I’ll leave the science to the scientists.

Your mission, and my mission, (should we choose to accept it) is to pay attention to this phenomenon and kindly observe when we do it. The more we pay attention to our reflexive speech patterns the more we shine the light of insight upon them; and with more insight we can-with time and practice - gracefully pivot from a meaningless “sorry” towards a clear, direct truth. Donna Sherman January 19, 2023

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