If You Use This One Word, You Will Ruin Your Apology
This tiny, two-letter word can make a huge difference in the sincerity of what you say.
Uh-oh! You’re in the doghouse again. Regardless of what you did (or said) to offend the other person, you need to fess up, and fast. (Just make sure you’re not apologizing for any of these things.) But still, tread lightly; saying the wrong thing could quickly turn your apology from frank to false.
“As I explain in my book, the challenge of apologizing is not just a matter of saying the right words, because apologizing with the wrong words can feel worse to the hurt party than no apology at all,” psychologist Harriet Lerner, PhD, wrote for Psychology Today.
In fact, there’s an almost surefire way to turn an apology into an insult—and it only takes a single, two-letter word to do so. (On the flip side, here’s the one thing you need to say when you’ve made someone angry.)
Beware of the word “if” when making amends, Dr. Lerner says. Turns out, such a tiny word can make a huge difference in how the other person perceives your sincerity. An apology that begins with the phrase “I’m sorry if…” could come across as condescending or insensitive. What’s more, it might give the impression that you question the other person’s reaction, which could put them on the defensive. Now that their guard is up, they’re less likely to listen to what you have to say—even if you have the best intentions.
Of course, common sense says there’s a good and bad way to apologize, but sometimes our own emotions get in the way of an effective apology. Maybe we don’t feel like we’re to blame, or we don’t understand what we did wrong. Our own feelings aside, though, slipping in this word “will turn your ‘sorry’ into a ‘not really sorry at all,'” according to Dr. Lerner. And if the relationship matters to you, you’d be well advised to avoid the word “if” at all costs.
As for the secret to a sincere apology? Make sure you’re doing these three things, and you’ll repair the broken relationship in no time.
[Source: Psychology Today]