An unapologetic guide to saying Sorry

When was the last time you said Sorry to someone?  It’s not something that any of us like to do and it is something that many of us don’t do.  Often it is the people who should say Sorry the most that do so the least.

Saying sorry implies that you did something wrong and doing something wrong is just a few steps away from being a bad person.  Few of us actively want to be wrong, we try to look out for people and take into considerations others when deciding upon our own course of action.  We might perform charitable works, give up our seat for the elderly.  We may even vote for political parties that may penalise us but we don’t mind because we know that actually other people are less fortunate than ourselves.  Then we go and mess things up by doing something wrong or bad even if accidentally or on the spur of the moment and it impacts on others.

Sometimes not saying sorry when it is appropriate can be a bigger problem than the original even that caused the situation in the first place.

Personally I say sorry all the time but not necessarily for things many people do.  Being one of those old fashioned English type people, I apologise to others for incidents that are not my fault at all for example someone standing on my foot on the train or even if someone gets wet in the rain or bangs their foot on a table leg.  I’m just sorry for whatever it was that has happened whether I caused it or didn’t.

I don’t tend to say sorry for many things I do.  To a large extent this is probably because I put a great deal of effort into not doing anything bad in the first place.  I’m not one to do something just to make a point or to put myself first above others.  Life would be easier sometimes if I did but 9 times out of 10 if there is a course of action that would be entirely justifiable to take and that most others would, I won’t just on the off-chance it upsets someone.

In fact my wife and I who have now been married 7 years have never had a real argument.  Those times we do get slightly unhappy are usually caused by people who act entirely thoughtlessly towards one or both of us especially when we put a lot of thought or energy in how we treat others.  What disagreements we do have can often come from the fact that we both put the other first to such a degree that we assume we shouldn’t do something for ourselves or make ourselves happy in our own way.

As big as I am at saying sorry for things that aren’t my fault or not doing things in case it might make people unhappy, on the few times I do something because I want to put myself first and it does upset someone else, well then I don’t really apologise for it.  If I did a course of action then I really wanted to do it and I am really not sorry for that even if it makes someone on that instance think I am selfish or horrid in some-way.

I don’t think I have any enemies, I don’t think I have ever been deliberately bad to anyone.  I’m always told how everyone loves me or that I am the nicest or sweetest person they know.  I’m sure there may be one or two who think differently in the old world of work but they were largely horrid, selfish or bullying people to begin with and though I wouldn’t be horrible to them, I would just refuse to buy in to their self-proclaimed awesome personality and make no effort whatsoever to be anything but workmanlike with them.

However there are times in life where you just have to say sorry.  If you don’t then it takes a way a little something about you.  If you don’t care about this then you’re probably the sort of person who doesn’t take others into consideration in the first place.

Firstly, don’t try putting yourself into someone else’s shoes.   Don’t think that because an event wouldn’t upset you that it wouldn’t upset them.   You might have some idea of what someone else thinks but you can never really be sure.

If you are sorry for something then just come out and say so.  Don’t beat about the bush and do it half-heartedly by saying I’m sorry you feel that way or that you’re sorry if someone took something the wrong way.  A real apology consists of you admitting that you did something and it made something happen and that you are sorry you did that thing and that that something happened.

If you can’t admit that you were the cause of the unhappiness or offence then think it through more and if you still can’t see the issues then maybe you have to decide that either you did nothing wrong or that you don’t care that you did.  Maybe even say just that.

If you are genuinely sorry then work towards remedying the offending situation and even better make sure that it doesn’t happen again but don’t expect the injured party to help you if you’re the sole person who screwed up.

Never ever start you apology with a “I’m sorry but”.  There are not ifs buts or maybe in an apology and these terms make it an argument or opinion but not an apology.   If you are really sorry then your opinions or extenuating circumstances are not important at this time.  What is important is what you did wrong and the feelings of those you’ve bruised.  It doesn’t matter if the other person did something wrong too, they can apologise for themselves after you’ve finished or at a later date and if they don’t then it doesn’t mean you can retract a real apology.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that just because you apologise, it doesn’t mean that the other person has to accept it.  They might not want anything more to do with you whether they accept your apology or not.  They can have nothing more to do with you either way and that is perfectly legitimate for them.  You don’t just apologise to someone else to make them feel better but because it is the right thing to do for you and if you have wronged or alienated someone and apologised or tried to apologise to them and they want nothing more to do with you then you can’t hold that against them as it was you who changed the natural foundations on which your shared relationship was based and we all know what it is like when things happen to us.  Sometimes you can get over it, others you decide to move on without them.

I hope you enjoyed reading this, I really do but if not then I am genuinely sorry.


About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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8 Responses to An unapologetic guide to saying Sorry

  1. Ankur Mithal says:

    Sorry you feel this way Stephen 🙂


  2. Oh Ankur, as soon as I saw the word ‘Sorry’ in your comment I instantly thought that I had done something wrong and wondered what I had to apologise for 🙂 I’m glad you liked it.


  3. EBotziou says:

    I’m feeling very ‘sorry’ for myself today…but I enjoyed your piece as always! 🙂


  4. GrahamInHats says:

    I think sorry is an essential part of healing wound and our best intentions would be that. 🙂


  5. emilialiddell says:

    I’m sorry I’ve had all the cookies that John and Louise brought for us! I assumed you didn’t want them so I ate them all! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The modern stars with their non-apologies | Stephen Liddell

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