Do people still value your apology?
It is the match of the century. The war on words! Who will win this epic battle? In one corner is the overused but very powerful phrase, “I’m sorry.” In the other corner is the underused, less powerful, more efficient, and likely more appropriate phrase “Excuse me.”
Maybe this is a pet peeve of mine, or maybe there is something to these words and how they are used. I tell my kids often that saying “I’m sorry” means intent to change behavior. I am raising two boys. So you can imagine how often we are in a closed up car, I smell that smell, and hear a kid say “I’m sorry” through giggles as I roll the window down to gasp for fresh air.
It started as a joke as I said to my boys “’I’m sorry’ means you intend to change, and you know you are going to fart again. You are not sorry.” While we laugh and giggle about this example, we can take this to our everyday interactions with adults and with our spouse.
How often do we say to others “I’m sorry” when there is no intent to change our behavior? While we may truly be sorry, there may not be intent to change. We may still do the same thing to someone over and over and it won’t take long until “I’m sorry” means you are not sorry because they hear it with no change of behavior to follow suit. So when they hear it come out of your mouth they no longer believe you mean it.
I suggest that “Excuse me” or “Please excuse my behavior” may be a great way to keep your “I’m sorry” available for a time when you have made a major mistake in which you have true intent to not make that same mistake again. For instance, when you cough you likely say “Excuse me” because you are going to cough again, but when you lose your temper and say the wrong thing you say “I’m sorry” because you intend to not lose your temper with them again.
So when you encounter a time you need to apologize for your behavior, think before you blurt out “I’m sorry.” Do not overuse the phrase to the point that people no longer value your apology. Maybe it is just a war on words, but we all know words are a powerful tool. We can destroy or build up using our words. Take the time to match up your words to your sentiment. I suspect you will soon see that when using the appropriate words, you start to see people trust and value your words and apologies.
Photo: Flickr/Kurt Bauschardt
Would you like to help us shatter stereotypes about men?
Receive stories from The Good Men Project, delivered to your inbox daily or weekly.