Thursday, March 8, 2012

ROL: I'm Sorry.

ROL (return on life) is a qualitative corollary to the quantitative metric, ROI (return on investment). Just as ROI strives for incremental investment driving disproportionately large returns, ROL strives for small incremental changes that greatly increase quality of life. This week's ROL is about apologies.

This past week there has been a lot of talk about apologies. If you require a more thorough back story, here's a link. Listening to all the apology talk, I think it's time for a primer on apologies.
source: ABC.OTUS News
When you realize an apology is necessary, here's the formula: "I'm sorry my words/actions hurt you. I did not plan on hurting you. I thought my words/actions indicated (fill in blank) I will be careful in the future to make sure my words/actions are clear. Again, I'm very sorry." That's an apology. "I'm sorry if anyone misunderstood my words/actions and was hurt" is not an apology.

The person receiving the apology says either:
  • "Thank you for your apology. I'm glad you cleared that up" and it's over.
  • "Thank you for your apology but it does not ring true because...." and it's over.
Two final notes about apologies.
  1. A heartfelt apology is one of the best ways to move things forward for both the apologizer and the apologizee.
  2. The only person that should evaluate the efficacy of an apology is the person receiving the apology. Any bystanders are entitled to their opinion about the apology. Said opinion is best expressed silently.
"I am sorry" are three very powerful and healing words when used appropriately. Lather, rinse, repeat, as often as necessary.


  1. In our family we use "I am sorry for ... I should have ..." because, honestly, sometimes, in the moment we've said or done something nasty, we really did mean to do it. So instead of trying to explain, we acknowledge what the proper course of action was. It lets the offended know we really are intent on improving ourselves and helps to reinforce proper behavior in the future.

    1. Rebekah,
      Thanks for stopping by. Absolutely agree. Acknowledging the person hurt and apologizing makes it so much easier to move forward.

  2. Inability to apologize correctly can run in families. My mother did not know how to say "I'm sorry." I remember being so angry with her one day when I was a teenager that I threatened to run away. This was in the height of the 60s and my younger (teenage) brother had already disappeared off to the drug culture in San Francisco in the Summer of Love. My mother slid a note under my door saying she was sorry for what she said. I was shocked. This was the first time she ever apologized (and one of the only times).

    She was raised by parents who did not knew how to apologize. I have made an effort to apologize to my kids. But it does not come easy.

    1. Pat,
      As usual you are right. Inability to apologize is indeed a learned behavior. Still starting with "I'm sorry you are hurt" goes a long way to not only start the healing, but to get the rest of the message heard. I hope your brother survived and wnt on to thrive. Many did survive and go on to do well, others not so much.