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I’m not sorry. Are you?

By June 15, 2010How To, The Business

Call me a linguistics geek, but I prefer to ‘apologize’. And there is a difference.

Sure. You did something less than nice. Or maybe you just bumped into someone by accident. Maybe you made an error.

But, are you really sorry? I do realize there are two separate definitions for this word, but I can’t say the word without thinking of definition #2, which reads:

in a poor or pitiful state or condition

I can regrettably make mistakes, but I’m neither poor nor pitiful.

Which is why I simply apologize.


Recently, Naomi Dunford wrote a post about an interaction with a client gone awfully wrong. It’s an intense post on several levels, and in it she says,

“We sometimes have this belief that we have to tolerate anything a client puts out. No. You don’t. Be understanding if you want to be understanding and forgive if you want to forgive. But don’t squash down that part of yourself that says, “HELL NO I’m not going to get treated like that” because you’re afraid of losing clients.”

There was talk about the mislaid belief that if you’re being paid by the person, you have to take it. Um…they’re not paying you to feel bad. They’re paying you to do a job. See the difference? I don’t know about you, but there is no ‘pile on the abuse’ clause in my contracts.

Is this also about semantics? I wonder. Ish.

Like I said, apologize, but don’t be sorry. Don’t grovel. Find a solution, make it better and move forward. You do not suck, you made a mistake (unless you really suck, but hopefully you don’t and I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt).

Isn’t this the same conversation we have about getting paid what you’re worth? Isn’t this the same conversation we have when we feel blocked?

You’re the only one who can name your value and then stand behind it—and deserve it. You’re the only one that can get it done. Two things that are terribly hard to do when you’re feeling sorry.

And now I’m kicking your virtual ass out of this virtual plane. But I highly recommend you use a real parachute.

Image credit: jcarwash31

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Aaron Pogue says:

    I don’t have a great comment to your post, because I’m one of those whose natural tendency is to squash down the self and take the abuse. I’m taking your post very much to heart, but I can’t add to it.

    I can add to the linguistics geek bit, though, because that’s something I’ve spent a long time thinking about. Specifically this:

    It’s even worse in French.

    In French, they say, “desole” (with an accent mark I’m leaving off and variable Es depending on reproductive organs). “Desole.” They just shrug it over their shoulder the way we’d say “sorry.”

    It means “desolate.” The clearest definition I found for that was, “Bereft of friends or hope, sad and forlorn.”

    I’ve got a couple friends who are French, and whenever I hear them say it I automatically do the mental juggling of translation, and get from their casual “sorry” to “I forgot to bring back that book you loaned me. Now I’m bereft of friends or hope, sad and forlorn.” It breaks my heart every time.

    Perhaps I’d stand up for myself a little more if I lived in Provence. Or maybe I’d just go from pitiful to forlorn. We’ll never know.
    .-= Aaron Pogue´s last blog ..On Document Outlines: How to Use the Standard Outline Format =-.

  • Dave Doolin says:

    I haven’t even read the post, but “Sorry?”

    HELL NO.

    I haven’t said “I’m sorry” for _any_ reason, for years.

    I did, however, apologize once to my last xgf… for cutting her out of phone call to pick another one up. I hate when people do that to me, so I apologized to her for doing it and never did it again.

    “sorry.” You gotta be FKM.

    Should I read the article now?
    .-= Dave Doolin´s last blog ..SEO Anchor Text SEO Anchor Text SEO Anchor Text SEO Anchor Text =-.

  • Lisa says:

    Every day I read your postings, I think “she must live my life”.

    I just came off of working with a firm that I deeply distrusted, and our clients were petulant civil servants who thought they held our contract and that meant that they could command us to twirl and arabesque on the heads of pins “just cuz”. When I would resist, because I didn’t understand the benefit to dancing on heads of pins, and couldn’t justify spending money doing so, I was labeled “resistant”.

    I’m not working for them now, and while the financial impact is bad, the emotional impact is uplifting. Saying “I’m sorry” might have saved my job, but sold my soul.

    I’d rather be poor.

    • Julie Roads says:

      First of all, “Every day I read your postings, I think “she must live my life”. —this made my day.
      Second of all, good for you! I’m a firm believer in the fact that when you get rid of something shitty like that, you open yourself to a whole lotta good. So, don’t worry – that money will come back and will feel much better. Don’t you agree?

  • Lisa says:

    Oh, I definitely agree.

    Thanks for that!

  • Van says:

    I hate saying “Sorry” anyway. This inspires me to remove the word from my vocabulary…unless describing something truly pitiful.

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