01 August 2005

tip of the week

Another Monday, another tip.

Do not say "I'm sorry you're upset" in lieu of an apology for whatever actually made the person upset (unless you want to piss them off).


  1. Or unless you're really sorry they're upset, but not sorry about what you did.

    Sorry. :] But I use this one a lot in customer service. I used it just the other day to diffuse a situation where someone had gotten mad about something that, frankly, they shouldn't have been upset about. I genuinely was sorry they were upset, I was sorry they'd misinterpreted something I'd said--but I sure as hell wasn't sorry I'd said it in the first place. This phrase makes it honestly clear that while they didn't mean to upset you, they're not going to apologise. Seems like good communication to me...

  2. I was thinking more socially in situations where a person has a legitimate reason to be upset by the sayer's actions, but you state your intention well when you say you use it to "diffuse a situation."

    To me, it's just a maneuver to avoid addressing the issue that originally caused the upset.

  3. Well, socially or...er...businessally?... It means the same thing. The person isn't going to apologise for doing or saying whatever it was. Now, if you feel they do legitimately owe you an apology, then you have to decide if you're going to hold that against them in the long term, if you don't get one. I don't think it precludes further discussion on why you're upset--you could even open it up further by saying, "I'd like an apology, and you're not giving me one--can you tell me why you don't see it the way I do?"

    It doesn't seem like avoidance, mainly because this phrase usually comes up AFTER an extended discussion of the incident and its resultant upsettedness.

    You know that communication is one of my "things," right? I could discuss the appropriateness of any random phrase for days on end... so don't feel like you have to respond if you don't want to! I just think it's always interesting how different ways of saying things can affect situations.

  4. Your last paragraph makes me feel better.

    The phrase would be less bothersome to me placed at the end of a discussion in your customer service scenario, but I still probably wouldn't use it in that context because I have such a negative bias to it.

    I've seen a number of people use it essentially to dupe someone into thinking they've apologized for the inciting act when they haven't. In cases where that doesn't work, the same phrase is sometimes used again but very condescendingly so as to invalidate the other person's feelings and make them feel foolish.

    For myself, I've heard it when I deserved a real apology. I did ask why I wasn't getting one, and that's when part 2, blow me off as if I'm irrational occurred. When I've seen or heard it, it's been used to shut down communication.

  5. condescention is never ok. :] it's all in how you say it, which is why it's interesting in my opinion.

    >>> Your last paragraph makes me feel better.

    you know i really like to argue/debate... and i know that you really usually don't. :] I'll quit hasslin' with ya on your blog, c! I just had to rise to that one because I say it so often and because i think it's a good response to certain situations...

  6. you know i really like to argue/debate...

    Hadn't really thought of that till you mentioned it actually. Good to have the reminder.

    I'll quit hasslin' with ya on your blog, c!