How do you say “sorry”?

I have been noticing this week how many forgo the need to apologize to others for the wide variety of mishaps that could be expected to require some form of apologetic response to re-establish or sustain healthy, social relationships.

I guess many of us have ran out of time at some point in recent times to turn around and apologise to the person we have just bumped into, whilst running for the train AND answering that important phone call. I have just been working in Paris and people bump into each other all the time… A friend of mine calls it “the zombie zone” and the phrase always comes to mind and puts a smile back on my face after just being bumped into, with, well, no apologies. And the most distressing for me is often not so much about not being acknowledged as visible but to realise that the person who has just bumped into me does not seem to have actually noticed that he or she did.

That’s the thing. The silence is the killer. The absence of that gesture, that word indicating that there was a better intention than what was acted, that there is the desire to go back in time, that there is the wish that whatever just happened did not happen.

And this is it, good apologies are spontaneous and immediately follow the mishap. Just dare think about what to do for just one moment and you will have missed the opportunity to be truthful, to repair the damage that has been done and is continuing to creak away in the other person’s mind and heart, whilst you wait.

Yet, it is always worth saying it, even late. I saw that beautiful film a little while ago – well, to tell the truth, I have been in love with Colin Firth ever since he came out dripping of that lake in the TV series “Pride and Prejudice”, so many years ago. The film is about the subject of forgiveness, the difficulties of forgiving someone who has done you harm, and often the long-term need for the other to ask for forgiveness. I recommend it to you. It’s called “The Railway Man“.

And well, yes, I have also been noticing those who don’t keep silent, for whom the word “sorry” slips off the tongue effortlessly, and often finishing their apologies with a smile.

I have been travelling by train a lot recently and on one of those recent journeys, the mobile phone of the businessman sitting in front of me started ringing. REALLY loudly. Unfortunately for him, he was sitting in the “quiet” compartment so he immediately got stared at by a few passengers around him. I was stunned to see him switch his phone with embarrassment on his face and immediately apologize to me and those sitting around us. I then surprised him by thanking him for apologizing. There have been so many before him who have blatantly ignored the “quiet” choice and imposed their private conversations upon me. I was just so grateful to him for saying “sorry”.

This is the thing. If we appreciated others more for admitting to have done something wrong, even accidentally, maybe they would be encouraged to admit to their vulnerability, to the fact that they failed to meet others’ needs from them, more often than many currently do.

Tell me you never ever get even slightly annoyed when someone’s phone suddenly starts ringing really loudly near you. OK, maybe, it’s just me.

It’s interesting to see the effect of just saying or hearing “sorry” though. I have noticed how it tends to wipe my emotional plate clean immediately. It puts me on an even keel with the other. I am immediately ready to “start” with them again. I felt vulnerable, because triggered, and he or she by saying sorry is admitting to wishing they had not triggered me. Apologies. They are really quite a beautiful thing to experience, and appreciate.

So, I wonder, how easy is it for you to say “sorry”?

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