Sorry for What?

In some societies, apologizing is more often equated with blaming oneself for what has occurred: ā€œIā€™m sorry for breaking the glass!ā€ Persons with low self-esteem may also regularly apologize for their shortcomings.

In others, an apology is commonly understood as an expression of remorse. When a misfortune befalls onto a friend or a relative, one may apologize even though he or she has played no part in what has happened. This is prevalent in countries that are more collectivistic.

Some individuals might even abuse the act of apologizing, using it even when they have little actual intention to convey either self-blame or remorse. For them, apologies could have become a way of avoiding conflict, and they cleverly employ apologies although they neither feel to be blamed for nor regret for the situation.

Singapore, however, is a hotchpotch of cultures. Understanding the meaning of an apology can thus pose much more of a challenge. After all, it is difficult to judge from the surface which cultural worldview a person subscribes to. good

Sometimes, when an apology is uncalled for, others may suddenly perceive an invisible social distance between the speaker and themselves. This would not be ideal when one wishes to establish closer relations with them.

A common tactic to avoid creating such social distances unintentionally is to thank instead of apologize. For instance, when one is tempted to apologize for holding a client up from his next task, appreciate them for their patience instead. To do so, one simply has to look out for the kind of virtues exhibited by the other person, rather than focusing on the flaws of oneself. When a friend has stayed by your side throughout a difficult period, rather than apologizing for the inconvenience you have caused them, thank them for being the wonderful friend that they are.

With our nature to tend towards things or people that make us feel good, this strategy helps us maintain healthy and positive relationships with others.

Written by Dr. Joel Yang