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I’m Sorry But…

Sometimes the most heartfelt and sincere apologies can be ruined with the word “but” after it. Or, with some qualification that gives with one hand and takes away with the other. For example: “I’m sorry I called you an idiot, but you were acting stupid; “I’m sorry if you think I was being unfair, but so were you”; “I apologize if you didn’t think I was listening, but I’ve heard it all before!”

For some reason it’s a common approach – the attempt to reconcile matters by saying things that contradict the intent of doing so, such as by putting in a “but” between statements. Why can’t we just leave our “buts” out of it and make the apology meaningful? Is it about needing to be right; or to have the last word; or to make the other person wrong; or to justify bad behaviour? Or, is it unfinished venting? Or?

For this week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog and questions below, I suggest you consider a time the other person turned an apology into a statement of what they didn’t like about you or what you did, and another time when you did that sort of thing.

  • What did the other person say that started as an apology and ended up with blame of some sort?
  • What was the impact on you of the above?
  • For what did you hear the person blaming you that was new to the interaction between you?
  • What was a continuation of what had already been said?
  • What might have been unfinished for the other person that they put a “but” into their apology?
  • What else might be the reason?
  • If you consider a time you apologized to someone with whom you were in a conflict and added a “but”, what did you say?
  • What remained unresolved for you that you did so? For what other reason did you?
  • What were you actually sorry for? For what were you not sorry?
  • What do you think the ingredients are of a sincere apology?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?


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