The problem with saying sorry and what to say instead

The problem with saying sorry and what to say instead

The problem with saying sorry is it doesn't usually work. 

We may feel that we have fixed things, tidied it, made up or made better. Often times the issue/incident still lurks around in the emotional filing cabinet, ready and waiting to be tabled again, if necessary or expedient. 
 
What to do instead
Instead of the standard apology, try this
1. Express what you would have preferred to have done/said
3. State how you feel. (optional)
4. State what you have learnt.
5. Indicate what you will do differently in the future.
6. Ask for what you would like from them in the future. (optional) 

An example
Instead of 
'I'm sorry for putting you down in front people yesterday.
Say
1. Instead of correcting you in the front of the group yesterday, if I had the time again, I would move on to the next topic, and ask you about it later.
2. I'm learning that I need to understand the whole story before making a judgement about someones behaviour.
3. Less assumptions and more enquiry from me in the future. 

Instead of
'I'm sorry I was late for our meeting.
Say
1. This is not first time I have been late, and you are not the first person I have kept waiting.
2. I feel shit 
3. I unrealistically cram too much into my diary, and end up running late. 
4. I need to learn to say 'no', I need to be more realistic about how much time stuff takes. 
5. For Gods sake, If you see me cramming my diary, please point it out to me … gently. This is not personal, I do it to everyone. 

Yes it takes longer. 
Having a good think about what happened and what needs to change takes longer, however the chances are you won't have to revisit it.
The conversation itself will take 30 seconds instead of 10 seconds.
 
So why doesn't a simple sorry work
Because the other is still left wondering if it might happen again.
Already heard it – we have heard these words so many times before they have been diluted to meaningless. 
Because it's too easy and human nature is a bit more complicated. 

 

So why do we do it
Because it's the cultural norm and we haven't been offered anything else.
Because we think it is quicker and forget it will probably come back and bite us. 
Because it is easier than looking at our behaviour and changing. 

And if we don't really mean it. If we aren't sorry, then don't say it. 
A meaningless sorry is worse than meaningless. It makes a tricky situation trickier. It may appear to make the awkward situation disappear, however if you didn't mean it, it will come back and bite. It will be filed away in the emotional filing cabinet and it will reappear. It will.  

Jane O'Shea teaches people how to have effective conversations tricky conversations, coaching conversations, team conversations, discovery conversations, mediating conversations. She is a trainer, coach, presenter and mediator – www.coreconversations.co.nz . Image my Meg Harte
'What's talked about and how it's talked about, dictates what happens.'

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