Some people resist saying those simple words “I’m sorry”.  Most of the time, this knee jerk reaction comes from a place of defensiveness.  We don’t like to be criticized or attacked.  We don’t like to think we’ve done something wrong.  For some people it triggers a whole world of guilt or shame, for others, it simply makes them feel coerced or manipulated, especially if they believe that they have not done anything wrong to begin with.  So what does an apology really mean.  It means that…

  • Someone has experienced you and your actions as hurtful, insulting, disrespectful, etc.
  • You are able to acknowledge that your actions have affected someone negatively, even if that was not your intention.
  • You are able to be empathic and understand that something got triggered in the other person as a result of experiencing you in a certain way.
  • You can say “I’m sorry you feel that way”, without taking responsibility for someone’s feelings.
  • You may have behaved insensitively, not considering how your actions may impact those around you.
  • Your own narcissistic needs lead to making choices that were not in the best interest of others.
  • You are mature enough to take responsibility for those actions that were inappropriate and/or disrespectful and recommit yourself to doing better in the future.
  • You are mature enough to express compassion and empathy for how another person feels, even if that feeling came more from their “stuff” rather than your “stuff” (and by the way, it is not that easy to sort that out).
  • You care enough to take the time to hear someone out and let them know you care.

Sorry is one of the best words found in the English language.  Unfortunately, it has been misused or overused without any genuineness behind it, resulting in a less than righteous connotation and reputation.  When you truly understand what “sorry” means and effectively communicate its true meaning, “Sorry seems to be the only word.”

Be well,


Julie Orlov, psychotherapist, speaker, and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery

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