Ken Sande says if you want to make a confession utterly worthless, use one of these three phrases.
“I’m sorry if I’ve done something to upset you.”
What do people hear when you say this? Often, “I don’t know that I’ve done anything wrong, but since you’re obviously upset, here’s a token apology to get you off my back. By the way, since I don’t see that I’ve done anything wrong, I have no idea how I may need to change. So it’s only a matter of time before I do the same thing again.”
“It wasn’t intentional.”
How about this one. What do people hear when you say it? “I did not deliberately set out to hurt you. But since you are of little value to me, I made no deliberate effort to avoid hurting you either.”
“It wasn’t personal.”
Don’t you just love this one. What do people hear then this phrase is invoked? “It wasn’t personal to me. Since we have no real relationship, I don’t really care that it felt so personal to you. Don’t get your nose out of joint so quickly. Geez.”
Are these the message you intend to communicate? I doubt it. I certainly hope not. But if you use thoughtless phrases like these, you’re usually sending the message that a particular relationship is of little value to you.
If you respond repeatedly with these kind of phrases, you not only ruin your confession, you may kill the relationship, too.
So, if you sense that you’ve offended someone but truly don’t understand what you’ve done wrong, what are you going to do? How can you totally own your part and be authentic and transparent? Thoughts?