THE BLOG

Learning To Say Sorry

22/09/2017 12:10 BST | Updated 22/09/2017 12:11 BST

Sorry is a simple 5 letter word, but don't you think that for some people, it is the hardest word to say. I would argue that it is one of the most powerful words in the language of communication, however it is rarely used correctly and if misused can cause great distress.

To hear that someone is sorry means that you have been heard. Your point of view has been listened to, your world entered, albeit temporarily. To not say sorry means the opposite is true - you are misunderstood, unheard, dismissed, wrong.

We are taught from a young age to apologise when we get things wrong. The apology and the 'naughty step' are a match made in heaven. You cannot leave the step until the apology is wrung from your lips. The child says 'sorry' but probably doesn't mean it. It is even , from a child of such tender years, a way of getting out of trouble, of being able to play once again. It stops the adult being angry. Sorry therefore has to be said, but not necessarily meant. Frequently the child will not know what they are saying sorry for ,but they know they must say it or else..

The child also learns that extracting a sorry from another person is about power rather than fairness. It is seen as an admission of defeat. The adult, even though they may have shouted and acted inappropriately, never has to apologise. They extract the sorry, happy in the feeling that the power balance has been restored. This is early programming ,where sorry does not necessarily mean sorry. Extracting a "sorry" means that you have given power to the one seeking the apology and refusing to say sorry means that you have won. You are all powerful.

In the adult world, sorry is seen as a weakness. If you apologise, you are the 'child' on the naughty step and will do anything possible to avoid having to say that word, giving away your power. Sorry means that you were in the wrong, this is shaming. The rules of the workplace promote a blame culture all too often, blame can be spread around at any opportunity. Blame means failure and being told off, the child role once again assumed.

In insurance terms, a car driver involved in an accident is often advised never to accept liability, even if they have ignored a stop sign and driven into oncoming traffic. Errors in hospital may well result in litigation, the court case may be settled beforehand, the fine paid but it is also covered by the caveat that they the Trust accept no responsibility for wrong doing. Complaints to schools, Social Services any Public Sector body are investigated and if applicable then training needs have been identified and lessons learned. Liability is avoided. Avoiding saying sorry prevents lawsuits.

A particular way of saying sorry, is a way of not saying it all. The sentence " I am sorry you feel like that' is the same as saying that you chose to feel upset by the interaction but that the choice was yours alone. The person speaking the words or doing the actions is therefore without blame. Sorry is said but not meant, it is said in a way that adds to the damage already done. This apology is wounding in itself and the person expecting the apology feels doubly wronged.

I have experienced many occasions where a heartfelt sorry would not have set the world to rights but would have helped to mitigate the problem. I would have felt heard and empathy would have salved the open wounds. It would not have brought back loved ones or made life with a complex child less traumatic but it would have helped me to feel understood and less judged.

Mistakes do happen, we do get things wrong, we cause pain where non was meant, we are human. These human interactions and transgressions can be minimised by a sincere 'sorry'. This also gives hope that lessons have genuinely been learnt and perhaps more thought and consideration will be to the forefront of future communications. So come on all you non apologists. Please learn to say "Sorry", before it's too late.