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“I’m Sorry.” “It’s Okay, It’s Not Your Fault.” ARRRGH!

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in compassion, empathy, understanding | Posted on 25-03-2013

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There’s a little interaction between people that really needs to go away. I don’t even know why it exists in the culture. Let faultme give you a few examples. You’re probably aware of it. You might even be guilty of it:

Example 1

Person #1: My car broke down.
Person #2: I’m sorry.
Person #1: It’s okay. It’s not your fault.


Example 2

Person #1: This cold weather is making me sick.
Person #2: I’m sorry.
Person #1: It’s okay. It’s not your fault.
Person #2: I know. What I meant was that . . . never mind.


Example 3

Person #1: My grandmother is in the hospital after being attacked by rabid weasels.
Person #2: I’m sorry.
Person #1: It’s okay, it’s not your fault.
Person#2: Ugh. What I was trying to do was offer you condolences by saying, “I’m sorry.” I’m not taking personal responsibility for the rabid weasels. Or was I?

You get the picture. You may be like me. Person #2 whose immediate reaction is one of compassion and the response is, “I’m sorry.” It’s a shortened way of saying, “I’m sorry to hear about your terrible situation. I hope it gets better.

empathSo why in the world do people think that we are taking some sort of responsibility for their plight? Really, we’re just looking for something like, “Thanks.” Not as in, “Oh, thank you for falling all over yourself to feel bad for me.” But more like, “I appreciate your empathy.”

But maybe the problem lies with those of us who are person #2. Maybe we aren’t being clear. I’ve heard some great grieving experts say that one of the best and most heartfelt responses we can give is, “You must be hurting a lot going through that.” At the same time, showing them true empathy and taking the time to identify with them.

But before we make that shift in human dialogue, maybe both sides can come to terms. Really, what one side wants is a short way to express their empathy, but do it in a heart felt manner. The other side wants to be heard. Is it possible? Ideas are welcome.