Why is Saying ‘Sorry’ The Hardest Word?

By Jasmine Wan
Published on April 11th, 2021

You know you’re wrong. You know what you’re supposed to say. You know what everyone expects you to say. Two words, “I’m sorry.” They are at the tip of your tongue, simply waiting for you to open your mouth, simply waiting for the right moment to apologise.

Yet, the words don’t spill out. It’s an excruciating affair to speak, almost as if it’s virtually impossible.

Why is saying ‘sorry’ the hardest word?

Let me start off by defining the action of saying ‘sorry’. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it is known as “to apologise for having done anything that has caused something or someone problems or unhappiness”. In short, ‘apologising’ is one of the most hated words in the dictionary. Allow me to explain why.

It is hard to find a person who finds it fun to say sorry. A lot of people (myself included) dislike admitting their mistakes, and some may even blame the situation on the receiving party. Nobody wants to be the person who is wrong. Some people believe apologising is a sign of weakness, because they don’t want to feel inadequate. Others may feel vulnerable, even humiliated when they say sorry, as they equate apologising to losing a fraction of their reputation.

Some people find apologising difficult, because of the problems that come hereafter. Imagine failing an important exam. When you get home, and both of your parents are expectantly waiting for you, seeing the hope gleam on their faces, I’m sure you’ll feel a sense of guilt. Questions will also swirl in your mind. What if my parents never forgive me? What if they won’t love me anymore? The most probable scenario would be for you to put on a brave smile, and walk to your room like nothing happened, as though you had passed the exam with flying colours. This can be easily explained. You would rather manipulate others expectations of yourself, than say the two words and watch your parents’ faces crumple into expressions of disappointment and disgust.

To some other people, apologising is like a game of chess. There are black and white pieces of information scattered across their minds. Gradually, as the game develops, both players collect all the information by picking up the pieces, and it is easy to see which player has the upper hand by counting how many pieces of evidence abide in their favour. When the game nears the end, the loser is forced to apologise, and the winner receives the apology. Checkmate.

But what if the game never ended? If the pieces were incomplete, and some crucial information was missing, would there still be an apology? If the players were in denial and constantly bickering with each other, both refusing to give up a piece, along with the constant snatching of evidence, the game would never end, and the argument would continue onwards.

It’s oh so easy to continue an argument. All it takes is some resilience, and a huge ego to get us going. After all, we’re human, and there’s something in us that makes us hesitant to admit fault.

But, is the easy thing the right thing?

That’s when mediation comes into the picture.

Mediation is the intervention in a dispute in order to solve it, and through mediation, arguments can be solved in an unproblematic way. There are two main features to a mediation – listening, and dialogue.

Start off by listening to yourself. If deep in your heart, you know that you are the person at fault, with courage, you will be able to say sorry. If not, try placing yourself in the shoes of the opposing party. Listen to their point of view, and be sincere in thinking about their reasoning. It is more than okay to be wrong, and if you allow yourself to admit the truth and say sorry, the argument can easily be resolved. After all, we’re human, and we make mistakes.

Dialogue between the two parties is also a very good way to dissolve an argument. Before having the conversation, make sure that both of you are calm, or at least trying your best to be calm. Tense attitudes will easily elevate the argument, and the conversation will spiral out of hand. With a clear head and thorough discussion, you can understand each other better, and through both perspectives, figure out why and how the conflict came about in the first place.

Now, after going through all these steps, try forming the words, “I’m sorry” with your mouth. It’s not that hard to say sorry now, is it?

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