Why ‘Sorry’ is the Hardest Word to Say

Sometimes, “I’m sorry” is more difficult to say than “I love you.” Whether an apology is warranted or not, some people have a real problem with apologizing. We are not talking about the everyday sorry that we Canadians are known to dish out in abundance – you know, in response to the shoulder bump with a stranger, accidentally cutting someone off in line at Starbucks or a sympathetic response to someone’s daily woes. No, we already do too much of that. But when it comes to important matters, huge personal screw-ups or betrayals or a mistake in the workplace, the “s-word” is fear-inducing for some. Here’s why: 

It Means We Were Wrong:
We don’t like to be wrong. Apologizing admits that we were wrong to both ourselves and the other person (or, worst case, group of people). It also means defeat. After all, most of us don’t apologize unless we absolutely have to. It is important not to let your ego get in the way of what is right and deserved and to know that, at the end of the day, it takes a strong person to apologize. After all, some people prefer to stay in denial, as if there is no admission of fault, so that there is no need to take responsibility. 

It Gives Up Power:
The second that you say sorry to someone inevitably puts him or her in a better position of power as you are suddenly the more vulnerable one. Right off the bat, they have the option to decide whether or not they will accept your apology. Especially for those of us that like to be perpetually in control, surrendering this upper hand may be difficult. The shift in power that results from the apology may even affect the dynamic of your relationship with the other person post-apology – whether for hours, days or indefinitely. You need to be prepared for that. 

It’s Awkward, No Matter What:
The whole act of apologizing is kind of awkward as hell. First, you’re inevitably faced with the dilemma of how to approach the other person or people. If you do so in person, it will involve an awkward approach and lead up and sometimes a careful strategy (i.e. awkwardly knocking on someone’s office door, asking to come in, the uneasy glance around or fidget, and finally the apology). Admittedly, it is always easier to apologize via written communication; this may very well work, especially if you are well versed in the English language. Some people, however, may indeed appreciate an in-person apology. Much like a first date, if you go into it thinking it will be awkward, this will only make it more so.

Sometimes We Have to When We Were Right:
There are certain times in our life when we have to suck it up and apologize when everything in our being tells us not to because we were so right. This could be to an irrational in-law that you have no choice but to get along with, or unreasonable friends in order to prevent a fight, or to over-demanding clients in order to save an account. From our experience, sometimes this is for the better. Saying sorry may indeed be easier than the repercussions. Of course, there is always the slightly passive aggressive approach to the apology: “I’m sorry that you feel that way, my reasoning was X,Y,Z, but from my point of view…” 

No matter what, apologies aren’t supposed to be easy. They are supposed to be humbling and soul-revealing. The good thing is that, because of this, they have the power to be so healing and powerful (yes, even when you’re right). True, it may be difficult to admit that we are not always so great, but it takes a strong person to recognize one’s flaws. And once you recognize the flaws (or perceived flaws), you can only grow from there.


Cover Image: Etsy