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What's in a word? - by TimC

I was thinking the other day (No cracks from my friends please.) about the subtle differences between words that are commonly used, sometimes not used or mis-used.

Let me give you an example.

I'm sorry.  This simple two word sentence can be interpreted so many ways and have so many different meanings for both the person who speaks them and the person who they are directed toward.

- I forget your birthday so I say I'm sorry.
- I am late for lunch and I say I'm sorry.
- I say something out of anger when I don't mean it, so I say, I'm sorry.
- I don't return your call and I say I'm sorry.
- You are a sorry person.
- I am sorry you are going through this difficulty.

The word sorry has two separate meanings;

Apologetic: feeling or expressing regret for an action that has upset or inconvenienced somebody, or is likely to do so.

Sympathetic: feeling or expressing sympathy or empathy, especially because of something that has happened, I felt sorry it had to end that way. Don't start feeling sorry for yourself.

The words, I'm sorry, when used too frequently or too easily can tend to lessen their emotional value as a verbal gesture toward someone else.

There's another way to consider these simple two words.  

Ever had anyone in your life who never said or didn't have the capacity to ever say they were sorry for anything even though their actions or words certainly warranted this phrase?  I have and I can tell you I'd rather hear I'm sorry too often then not at all.

However, often people feel that they need to apologize or say I'm sorry for things that don't require these words.  In effect many of these people for whatever reason feel that they need to say I'm sorry not for the act but for themselves.

Let's say I say something stupid (trust me I do that a lot) out of ignorance rather than arrogance or malice.  It was just a dumb comment.  Does it deserve an I'm sorry or a simple apology - I didn't mean it the way it sounded or I'm just upset and I apologize?  My reason or need to say these words, I'm sorry or I apologize will depend on both my self-esteem, your emotional reaction to the dumb thing I said and the circumstances under which they were spoken.

Here's the point.  In relationships sooner or later we all say and do dumb things not out of meanness, but because of stress, frustration, anxiety, fear or any number of other emotions or circumstances or situations.  If your partner knows that there was no hurt intended and you have an emotionally stable relationship is I'm sorry necessary every time you do or say something really stupid or hurtful? It depends again on what you were sorry for and your real intent behind what you said or did.

Socially it can become a real pain in the butt.  I play tennis and I can tell you when I play with someone I don't want to have to say I'm sorry every time I hit a bad shot.  So I have a rule.  I say I'm sorry one time to my partner at the beginning of the match and then I never say it again.  Most people laugh when I give them my rule.

I'm not suggesting this strategy in your relationships, but you might want to develop some similar tactics or rules regarding this issue so you can avoid any negative outcomes either for it's over use or under use.

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