Have you ever been apologized to, but it didn’t settle things for you? In fact, you may have left the interaction feeling weirdly at fault or basically just worse off. Possibly even pissed off?
If so, what likely happened was you were not apologized to at all. Rather you heard a justification or a defense. In other words, your concerns went invalidated.
“I’m sorry, but” are the words that start a justification likely used unwittingly as a defense. No matter what words follow the “but,” they likely were intended to mitigate fault or blame. Examples are “I’m sorry, but I didn’t know” or “I’m sorry, but you should have told me.”
“I’m sorry you think that,” are the words suggesting your thinking is off. No one likes to hear that, especially because the person uttering this is implying he thinks more accurately about the situation. Behaviorally, saying this falls in the category of contempt, which the marriage experts John and Julie Gottman cite as the most toxic in a relationship.
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” are the words that imply whatever you are feeling is wrong or that you are being overly emotional. These words rarely make people feel understood, because these words divide and don’t connect people. This is sad, because emotion is the glue the binds. These words are an emotional solvent. A Gojo of the heart.
Maybe what needs to happen is we need to leave the words “I’m sorry” at the curbside.
Wouldn’t you prefer to hear “I’m apologize my actions had this impact on you. I don’t want you have to experience this impact anymore and I will make changes so it doesn’t happen again.”