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I Apologize vs I’m Sorry: Is there really a difference? We think so.

There are those moments when our actions cause an unintended outcome.  In those instances, the best course of action may simply be to apologize.  It may be something simple. You were late meeting for lunch, or something a bit more weighty; perhaps you said something that offended someone.

There are two ways to apologize.  One is common, and the other has the opportunity to build the relationship.

When we say, “I’m sorry,” generally we are hoping that just saying the words will get us off the hook.  It might sound something like, “I’m so sorry! I feel terrible! I’m so upset that I could not make it in time.”  The message communicated is that the person speaking—we’ll call her Mary—is suffering from her situation, and hoping the listener will feel sorry for her.  She may have lots of reasons and explanations, and excuses, but little acknowledgment of how their actions impacted the other person.

At The Williams Group, we suggest another approach.  An apology carries more accountability for the consequences of the action to the other person.  In an apology the person speaking will clearly state the breakdown created. It might sound something like, “I can see what I said offended you by your reaction” or “I apologize for keeping you waiting for 20 minutes. I know it took some coordination for you to get here on time.”  The focus is on the other person, not on how badly the person who made the mistake feels.

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