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“I’m Sorry” Usage 5: “I’m sorry, but…”

I’ll share a story with you: I was at one time in a relationship with someone who almost never apologized without trying to explain why he shouldn’t have to be apologizing. “I’m sorry, but you were irritating me so much…”, “I’m sorry, but I’m really tired and this is not the best time…”, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know what to do.”

Let me say – if we feel like we should apologize, we should NEVER temporize it. No buts. If we’re accepting that we’ve done something wrong, then we accept it. Any apology that starts with, “I’m sorry, but…” is not an apology, it’s an accusation. “You were irritating me, and that’s why!”, “I’m really tired, your timing is very poor!”, “I don’t know what to do, why are you bothering me?!” This isn’t accepting that we’ve behaved poorly. This is attempting to shift blame, and justify our actions.

I’m not saying we should apologize for everything, or that there aren’t times when people expect us to apologize when we haven’t actually done anything wrong. I AM saying… that if we can’t apologize without trying to justify our actions, then we may as well skip the apology. Our justification will make the words, “I’m sorry,” meaningless.

Next time: Usage 6: Apologies are Important

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