How to say ‘I’m sorry’, and mean it


It has taken me a while to be ready to write this post. Time to heal from hurt and to allow anger and rage to simmer quietly back into being merely disconcerted. A friendship I valued has ended and all for the lack of a Sorry. The why’s and wherefores are not important and must remain private – however this post is to explore the importance of being able to fully say ‘I’m Sorry’, in the light of my work with The 7 Magic Words.

In the 7 Words: No, Hello, Thanks, Goodbye, Please, Sorry and Yes; Sorry comes 6th,sitting just before the Nirvana of Spiritual Enlightenment that is YES.

This implies that as a communication tool it is more complex and deeply felt than the energy of NO, where we all have to begin. (I shall illuminate the other words in another post).

Within the framework of The 7 Words, the word SORRY incorporated the four keywords: Responsibility, Remorse, Repair and Release.

Take a moment if you will to think about this. When you feel wronged by someone, whoever it may be – culturally we expect them to “Say Sorry”. But do we really know what it is we are expecting?

After all, what does ‘I’m Sorry’ really mean? What are we requiring from the apologiser? What will it really take for us to feel better? Because, after all, that is what we are looking at here – feelings. Plain and simple.

When we feel wronged, offended, upset or hurt by the actions or intentions, words or deeds of another, we expect them to seek to repair the damage if they actually care about us. This allows our existing relationship to continue, in spite of the ‘wrong-doing’ and for trust to be maintained. Looking at it this way – SORRY is really a very important part of relationship maintenance and care of ourselves and others.


Lets have a quick look at those keywords. First we have:


In saying Sorry we are actually saying ‘I am responsible for what happened. I caused it. I made the decision. I took the action. I did it.’ To avoid making the apology is to refuse to accept responsibility for your actions, and this can create permanent fissures in relationships. This lack of awareness or willingness to accept responsibility  – which, I might add is very different from BLAME – is the basis for most relationship breakdowns. The ‘irreconcilable differences’ we see cited in so many divorce cases.

Once you have taken responsibility for the hurt another has experienced – regardless of your actual intentions – then it is time to show how you are feeling. This brings us to the second word:


To show remorse, is to show that we are hurting because we have hurt another. That we are suffering, and can truly empathise with the other persons feelings. Again, a lack of empathy can create permanent wedges in relationships where one party feels overlooked and misunderstood, all for the lack of a meaningful expression of Remorse. We all know people who never apologise and, we all distance ourselves from them in some way; if not literally, then we may withhold intimacy, refuse to share deeper secrets, and withhold our trust. More practically we can simply decide that we cannot be around this person, and cut them out of our lives altogether.

But in the healthy relationship we will observe the pattern of Responsibility, and Remorse followed by the next step:


In the Repair stage – we seek to put right what went wrong. This can be a physical act of repairing a broken item, for example; or replacing a lost or misplaced item. Both good attempts at the Repair aspect of Sorry. In more emotional ways, the simple act of taking Responsibility, and showing our sincere remorse will effect the necessary Repair in and of itself.

if the ‘wronged party’ feels suitably led, the pair can them move onto the last phase:


This is most vital part of the healing power of Sorry that we observe as missing in so many problematic relationships. The inability to Let It Go or  Get Over It is the basis of many family arguments – some spanning decades. And why is this? Simply because one party failed to properly deliver a meaningful Sorry, leaving the other party wounded yet attached, both to the wrong-doer and the issue itself. Without the appropriate release, the issue, the event, the words spoken, will replay again and again in the mind of the injured party, creating a cage of fury, hurt and – sadly a victim mentality from which they will find it hard to escape.

Remember this: No-one chooses to become a victim. Generally something has happened that they have not been able to release. These victim-personalities are desperate to hear a meaningful SORRY and yet, unable to create it, they live eternally with a bitter taste in their mouth, and a sense of superiority over their nemesis. One wonders how these personalities will ever find any peace again?

In the 7 Words, the word SORRY is attributed to the deepest sense of Spiritual Awareness and we can understand why, when we look at this way. the people who feel a natural urge to offer a heart-felt Sorry to those they have hurt are generally more spiritually minded; aware of their actions and how other people feel. Not everyone is, sadly, and although they may read the books, talk the talk and even teach others how to live; if they are unable to offer a sincere and heart-felt apology to those they have hurt; there is evidently a massive lack of spirituality within them and they clearly have a lot to learn.

You may well be asking the question: ‘But what if I feel I have done nothing wrong? What if the other person is just being difficult? Refusing to see things my way? What if I feel my actions are fully justified – why should I apologise?

I know how easily these questions can get in the way of the healing process. The answer is simply this: If you care about the other person, listen to what they have to say. Don’t speak. Just listen. Don’t make excuses. Just listen. Don’t throw rocks at them. Just listen. Then breathe.

Breathe in the love you share with this person. Breathe in the love and care you want to feel from them in the future. Breathe in the softness that having them in your life has brought you in the past. Then take a moment to feel how they are feeling.

If your inner voice screams ‘It’s Not My Fault’: Breathe it out. If your heart starts racing with indignant rage: Breathe it out. If you are overcome with frustration, guilt, a sense of failure, embarrassment and an overwhelming feeling of needing to run away and hide: Breathe it out.

Then gather your heart, in love and compassion. Hear what the other party needs from you and offer a sincere apology for hurting their feelings. For causing them pain. For overstepping the boundaries. For taking them for granted. For acting badly. Whatever it was you did, simply follow the keywords back to healing and happiness:

  1. Take Responsibility for your own words/actions.
  2. Offer You heart-felt remorse and empathy for their feelings.
  3. Make full reparation in word or deed.
  4. Agree to ‘Let it Go’ and move on. (this is the bit where you shake hands or have a hug)

I hope you found this guide to SORRY enlightening and uplifting. Please comment below and let me know your experiences, both good and bad, with saying or accepting a SORRY. (But lets keep the deets private – shall we?)

Roberta is available to speak to your group or business about communications and 7 Words. Private Coaching Sessions are available as well as Group Facilitation to encourage healthy communications and Best Practice in the workplace.


2 thoughts on “How to say ‘I’m sorry’, and mean it

  1. Roberta, your insights and articulation on The 7 Words are inspiring. I’d like to add Forgive (a bit like Release). Whatever the situation, to forgive is within your gift. That’s not to say forget, but to forgive is a beautiful gift, for both yourself and the other. But just don’t forget the other, just in case….


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