Monday, October 14, 2019

"I’m sorry, Okay?"

I’m not a “Doctor of Censorship” or a “word-hunter,” but I do pay attention to the possible psychological and relational impacts of our expressions, because coaching clients on effective communication strategies is one of my areas of expertise. In the past, as some of you know, I talked about “Shoulds and Shouldn’ts,” “I know, I know,” “I feel guilty,” “Are you Okay?” “Be more positive,” and “Yes, but…” Today, I would like to briefly write about the very common expression, “I’m sorry, Okay?”

The reason I wanted to talk about this expression is because it appears that some people genuinely don’t know why they receive negative responses from others whom they sincerely apologized to. They made an apology, they meant it, but it still won’t work… It makes them feel sad, frustrated and so powerless. One of the possible reasons is that they used “I’m sorry, Okay?,” and if that’s the case, it is something that is so easy to fix. That’s why it is worth it to be aware of using this expression. 

“I’m sorry” is an expression with strong power. When we own up to our mistake and sincerely apologize for it, it can change others’ minds and hearts instantly. We are aware that we all make mistakes and we are kind to each other for that reason. But if someone does not apologize but keeps making excuses, that triggers us negatively so much.

When you add “Okay?” after “I’m sorry,” it actually works negatively. When we say, “I’m sorry,” it is an apology and the respondents tend to feel better. On the contrary, when you say, “I’m sorry, Okay?,” then the respondents feels forced to dismiss things while forgiving this person no matter what. This “Okay?” means, “I did apologize to you, so now you need to shut up and let it go. Forget about it, Okay?” Of course, it does not work! It is so useless as a function of an apology. The similar issue happens when people say “I’m sorry, but…” Once you add “but,” now your apology is not working as an apology but making an excuse, which does not work effectively, either. This issue is similar to “Yes, but….

In short, if you mean to say, “I’m sorry,” do not add “Okay?” or “but…” A simple and sincere apology is the best way to ask for forgiveness. Even if we are so anxious to be forgiven or to explain things, adding these words really affects the effectiveness of the apology negatively. It’s sad when what you are trying to do won’t work. So let’s be careful, shall we?

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