Do you remember the song from Love Story – love means you never have to say you’re sorry? I get that the context that in a loving relationship there are times when actions speak louder than words and one can understand that the other is sorry without actually saying the words. But the message can be deceptive because when two people are in that close relationship they will often encounter situations where they need to apologize.

We have trouble with the word sorry. Too many people say it and don’t mean it. Too many people say it too much when they shouldn’t. Too many people don’t say it when they should. How many times do you say it and should you?

In Toastmasters especially when someone is new to public speaking they are not only scared to be there, but they also think that they have to be perfect. So many times if they mess up a speech they will say “I’m sorry”. They will say they’re sorry that they were late, were not prepared enough, that they forgot something in their speech. If they are delivering on zoom they will apologize for technical glitches.

My first mentor gave me a great piece of advice. He said, “if you leave something out that you meant to include, or add something in that you weren’t planning on including, just act like it was supposed to be and no one will no the difference because they don’t have your script”. That has worked for me many times. Just give the speech and let people enjoy it as is. You can work on the corrections later.

Have you ever said something like “sorry, but” when you disagree or dislike something and you choose to act or speak differently? I have noticed that in myself and am working to counteract that behavior. Why should you apologize for disagreeing or having a different opinion? Should you respond to someone who loves some food (in my case it is beets) that you hate with an apology? Are you afraid of hurting their feelings? Just state your opinion and realize that not everyone thinks the same and it’s okay.

Then there are the “caught in the act” non-apologies. People who are sorry they got caught not for what they did. And many times they have the habit of dragging others into their mess. An often seen example is the politician who was caught in an extramarital affair. They hold a press conference to acknowledge the indiscretion and plead for forgiveness from their constituents. But they have the gall to drag their spouse up who has to stand there stoically and act like nothing is wrong. Boggles the mind – especially since they often haven’t changed at all.

At least when someone messes up and refuses to apologize you may be able to give them credit for being honest – not trying to say they’re sorry when they really aren’t. I remember being a camp counselor and encountering those two situations. One time a bunch of kids, from “Christian” backgrounds gathered around a truck where a window had been broken. It was obvious that one of them was guilty, but they all denied it – even denied seeing anything happen. And then there were kids who didn’t have that “background” – kids from the rough streets, who when asked said, “ya, I did it, whatcha gonna do?” They were honest and I could deal better with that than the supposedly “good” kids.

Apologies are important and saying you’re sorry can help to heal and reconcile. It can be a recognition that serves to improve behavior. But only if it is sincere and delivered when there is a real offense committed. And it should never be an automatic response – used like “excuse me” when you bump someone. Be careful how you use it.