What “I’m Sorry!” is…and is Not….

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by Carey Sue Vega in Business Etiquette, Etiquette, Manners

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Doug Wojcieszak speak on the topic of “I’m Sorry”.  What it is… and what it is not.

I found it fascinating that so often, all someone needs to hear is ‘I’m Sorry’, but yet, we’re so afraid to use those two powerful words together for fear of a lawsuit, or for fear of just looking like we’re in the wrong.

“Sorry” is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

  1. “feeling sorrow, regret, or penitence”
  2.  “mournful, sad”
  3.  “inspiring sorrow, pity, scorn, or ridicule: pitiful”

Wojcieszak talks about how the context of “I’m sorry” should not be construed as an admission of fault.  The key to putting “I’m sorry” in the right context is the statement you choose to say after “I’m sorry.”  This statement addresses the meaning of the sorrow rather than a perception of an admission of fault.  It is important to separate these two concepts.  Unfortunately today the concept of saying “I’m sorry” has led to confusion between an expression of sympathy and one of responsibility.

“I’m sorry” is an expression of sympathy and/or empathy, whereas an “apology” expresses responsibility.  “I’m sorry” shows respect, expresses sympathy/empathy, and may diffuse anger or prevent misunderstandings.

For more on this interesting topic, check out Sorry Works  by Doug Wojcieszak, James W. Saxton, ESQ, and Maggie M. Finkelstein, ESQ.


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