Can someone just say they are sorry?

January 23, 2016

My ex-husband used to say he was sorry I was upset. Note: not sorry he did anything wrong

I’m sorry, but I just want to hear the words ‘sorry’. Could someone please take responsibility and say they are sorry?

Is it just me or does it seem like the world is programmed for denial?

My best friend during a time when she disliked me immensely—I hope it has passed—accused me of being ‘full of self-justification’. I was indignant, outraged, and then spent weeks analysing myself. What did that mean? Was it her problem or mine? Regardless, I’ve never forgotten it and now I see how I, and everyone else, justifies our actions by our own situations.

Take today: the removalist informs me that he can’t come on the day he is booked to arrive, but it’s “not his fault” as settlement day has been delayed for another client, thus like dominoes, it has a roll on effect and my collection date has been delayed. Seriously? I have the water reading, electricity and broadband disconnection, cleaning, carpet steam cleaning, gardener, key collection and assorted other moving services all booked and locked in.

Sure, it’s not the removalist’s fault he is late, but I am the client and he is inconveniencing me—isn’t that worth a ‘sorry’, even a casual one? I won’t sue, or use it as an admission of guilt. I just want to hear ‘sorry’. Once I’ve heard that word, I know that person is empathetic of my situation. It might not be their fault, it might not be anything they have control over, but they understand that the situation is frustrating and they are sorry that it has occurred.

My ex-husband used to say he was sorry I was upset. Note: not sorry he did anything wrong or was the cause of my being upset, just sorry I was upset…hmm.

When did we stop saying sorry?

I learned this lesson when I was working for a television network some decades ago. They were meant to screen part 2 of an episode of the British TV show “Cracker” starring Robbie Coltrane, and got the episodes mixed up and screened a new one. Now many of you will know Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid in Harry Potter, but once upon a time he played a forensic psychologist in his own successful TV series. Hang in there, I’m getting to the point… the next day, hundreds and I mean hundreds of people called the station and with their British accents, complained about the episode mix-up. I was in marketing; I had to take their calls.

The first ten callers received my undivided attention… I listened, took names, said I would pass it on and then I smartened up. I empathised. I said ‘I am so sorry… I know, I am so cheesed off too… especially when it was a cliffhanger… you weren’t the only one… hundreds of calls.”

Suddenly, I was an ally, a sympathetic good soul who understood their angst and I felt better about myself that I could give something back even if it was a window of understanding.

So for pity’s sake, if you just say ‘I’m so sorry to tell you… inconvenience you… put you out… I hope you’ll understand…” then perhaps I, and everyone else who finds themselves in a sorry situation might just feel a little comforted by this.

Too much to ask? Sorry about that.

Amanda Olssen

Amanda Olssen is the mother of two humans and three cats. She studied dramatic arts and literature at university and is now working part-time as a proof-reader while working full-time at being a mum. She is married to a patient man who watches a lot of sport.


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