I’ve been thinking a lot lately about those two little words, and what they mean, and how we use them. My own use of this phrase, and my understanding of it, has morphed many times. Join me in this little journey to examine this all too familiar phrase… and the myriad ways in which we use it.
Today, I’ll talk about the first way in which I learned to use the words, “I’m sorry.”
Usage 1: Tame the beast.
As a child, I was usually surrounded by people (an abusive step-father, likewise abusive uncle, etc.) who were never satisfied with anything that I did. I learned that saying ‘I’m sorry,’ could be a way to make people less angry, even if I couldn’t determine what I had done wrong. Obviously I had made them angry, so I would apologize, even if I couldn’t understand where my mistake had been.
The lesson of my childhood: I must be perfect, or I must apologize for failing to be so.
I think perhaps many of us learn this as our first usage of the phrase (though perhaps not to the extreme that I did) when we are young and do not yet understand most things. We make so many mistakes, and then we learn these magical little words… ‘I’m sorry,’ which help defray the consequences of our errors even when we can’t understand what it was that we did wrong.
It’s actually pretty clever of us, if you consider that defusing hostility is the first step taught in anything involving mediation or say… hostage situations. As children, we learn this very useful skill… if we say we’re sorry (regardless of whether or not we actually are), it makes people less angry.
There are more uses of this phrase… I’ll examine another one in the next entry. (Yes, I’m trying to stop ignoring my blog… apologies for doing so for so long!)