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Saying "I'm sorry' is meaningful when backed up with feeling

"I'm sorry."

These two important words, when used sincerely and appropriately, are among the most powerful and helpful words in the English language.

One of the interesting facets of the phrase is the effect it has on both the hearer and speaker of the words.

Mary, for example, uses these words too often. Friends notice a pattern that develops with Mary when she meets a new person. Her statements of "I'm sorry" become frequent as she uses it many times a day in verbal relationships.

The effect is the hearer of her "I'm sorry's" begins to be annoyed and even resents her frequent apologies. After a while the apologies have little effect because of their frequency.

Mary, herself, feels in a neurotic fashion when she apologizes. She has unconsciously developed that habit of frequent apology because of the deep-seated inferiority complex, a complex that causes her to feel inadequate in many situations.

Over the years she has lost objectivity about the way she comes across to other people. Mary has become a pessimistic, whining, self-flagellating individual.

Bill, on the other hand, infrequently says "I'm sorry." His apologies are limited to extreme situations in which he feels there is no other way out but to apologize. He resents having to make apologies. He feels apologies are a sign of weakness.

His discomfort with this problem makes those around him feel he is an uncaring, self-centered, arrogant individual.

Men, in particular, seem to have this problem, somehow thinking they are in a "one-down" position when they make an apology.

A problem with infrequent apologies is that when an apology actually is made, it comes across as insincere. It may seem to those around the apologizer that the statement is forced and full of anger.

If people like Mary, who over apologize, wish to change, they should take a long, hard look at themselves. These people frequently have an inordinate need for approval. At a level below awareness, they believe they must please everyone all of the time. Consequently, they end up apologizing for their very existence; and, as comedian Rodney Dangerfield would say, they "don't get no respect."

Overly apologetic behavior breeds lack of respect in others. But an increased awareness and some persistent work can help overcome this problem.

People like Bill who have a hard time saying they're sorry also should examine the reasons for this difficulty.

Are the assumptions irrational and illogical? An example is, "It's not macho to say I'm sorry."

Some stingy apologizers believe down deep that others won't respect them if they say "I'm sorry." This is the opposite of the truth.

Sometimes simply forcing one's self to apologize when needed and increasing one's awareness of the need to do this helps overcome the hesitations that may be standing in the way of an apology.

Give this two-word phrase a try. I think you will like it.