Los Angeles Chapter  California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

Los Angeles Chapter — CAMFT

LA-CAMFT Member Article

02/28/2022 4:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

Marvin Whistler, 

A Few Thoughts About Apology
(A Short Talk for Toastmasters)

Over the years I have mediated various types of conflicts. There is one thing that is common to all types of mediations that I have conducted, whether the issues involve trees, real estate, divorce or other matters. Frequently, a simple, “I’m sorry” is enough to bring parties together in a resolution of their conflict. 

In this talk, I will explore a few thoughts about apology focused on the words, “I’m sorry,” the contraction, “But,” and the concept of accepting responsibility.

1. Let’s begin with the words, “I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry can go a long way to repair a strained relationship. However, is it enough to simply say, “I’m sorry?” Sometimes.

Let’s consider two types of apologies. The first is simply, “I’m sorry.” The second is, “I’m sorry that I yelled at you and hurt you. I was unkind and thinking only of myself.”

The first example may be enough if the speaker’s body language and tone of voice express regret. However, often the speaker is mouthing the words, “I’m sorry,” to avoid conflict not to resolve it. He is not concerned about any effect his action had on the other party. It is an empty apology.

The second example is explicitly expressive of regret and will be much more powerful if deliver with a body language that expresses remorse.

Putting together explicit language and appropriate, non-verbal elements such as body language and tone of voice, can make the words, “I’m sorry,” explode with meaning.

2. Speaking of meaning, “but” is a word that can destroy meaning.

When we use the contraction, “but,” we run the risk of nullifying the phrase that comes before it. “But” is a powerful three-letter word. An apology with a “but” is not really an apology, is it? Let me give you an example, “I’m sorry I yelled at you but you make me so frustrated with your whining and complaining.”

In this example, the speaker makes an empty apology and attempts to blame the receiving party for the wrong. The person who is wronged is robbed of an apology and is hurt once again by the insincerity of the excuse.

3. We have taken a look at how “I’m sorry” and “But” relate to apology, now let’s consider how accepting responsibility can affect an apology.

To do this, here is another example of an apology: “I’m sorry that I yelled at you. I was wrong to blame you for the late delivery. I was only thinking of how it was going to affect me and I took out my frustration on you.”

In this example, the speaker is accepting responsibility for her actions. There is no qualification or justification, just a simple apology. What makes this apology so powerful in its simplicity is the phrase, “I was wrong . . .” Arguably, the words, “I was wrong” are the ultimate in accepting responsibility and beginning to make amends for a wrongful act.

On that positive note, I would like to close with an English proverb: “Anger is often more harmful than the injury that caused it.” That quote is from the book, The Power of Apology by Beverly Engel.

Marvin Whistler, Mediator, guides couples through the unpredictable waters of divorce and helps them resolve their differences in dividing property and debt, planning for the care and parenting of their children, deciding on support and their future relationship as well as other issues that will be important for their future relationship. His mediation practice also covers various types of disputes including but not limited to family, real estate, landlord-tenant, and community. Marvin provides online mediation throughout Southern California, is Treasurer for Southern California Mediation Association and a member of Academy of Professional Mediators and the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. Website: MarvinWhistlerMediation.

This article was originally published here.

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