Why It’s Never Helpful To Say, “I’m Sorry You Feel That Way” Or “I Never Intended That…”

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Check in with yourself. How do you feel when you hear, “I’m sorry you feel that way?” or “I never intended that.”

“If you own the story you get to write the ending.”

Brene Brown

“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.”

George Bernard Shaw

Why It’s Never Helpful to Say, “I’m Sorry You Feel That Way…” or “I Never Intended That…”

Yes, you did intend that. This does not make you evil. It just makes you human and likely unconscious of what you were thinking and feeling at the time. I admit it: I am writing this article so that every time you think these two phrases, you will pause, reconsider, and chuck them out. In my work in culture transformation in companies and schools, I wince at these phrases because I remember what it was like to be on the receiving end of them, and the inauthentic and unpleasant doling out end of them, too.

When you say, “I’m Sorry You Feel That Way!”

First of all, you can be sure that when you say this, you are not feeling sorry, unless you are sorry you are in the room with the other person when they just told you how they really feel. What you are instead, is triggered and uncomfortable. When you say, “I’m sorry you feel that way,” this is a clue you are in emotional reactivity, which is never a good time to speak in anything close to rapid-fire. Self-awareness, social awareness and a determined choice to manage both consciously are the order of the day, if you decide to be responsible rather than rash. The reason this phrase never helps anyone is because feelings require no apology, and it is usually said to shut someone up or create distance from the emotions and perspective being expressed or felt.

When you say, “I Never Intended That”

Are you so sure you are always aware of your every intention? In the individual psychology of Alfred Adler, used at LifeWork Systems, intention = results; in other words, if you get a result, you intended it on some level, even if subconscious and in a circuitous way. For example, it may be you started out intending to have a kind, joyous time with your best friend but when she brought up politics and you both get wound up, a second intention just might have slipped in, such as, “I would rather be right than remain friendly.”

Instead of saying, “I never intended that,” it would be truer to say, “When we started out, I never realized I would decide to intend that” but of course, this would require a high level of self-awareness, self-love and self-acceptance, and a commitment to check and see if our results might be reverse-engineered back to a less palatable intent. Part of the reason this is so difficult is that we believe some intentions indict us without benefit of a trial, and require we be punished, another subconscious internalized intent often lurking within us. That’s why Brene Brown is right, “If you own the story, you get to write the ending.”

Imagine someone says something that triggers you. Do you take a breath before responding? Do you become aware that one or both of these phrases wants to pop out of your mouth, compulsively? Do you realize that using either of these as a coping mechanism is unhelpful, even counter-productive? Do you catch yourself before you say them? If, and when (I have faith in you) you do, you are practicing emotional intelligence. You are deciding to be intentional and responsible for the future, as George Bernard Shaw so aptly pens. Our past would keep us in limiting beliefs and fear about guilt and punishment. Choosing to create what is loving to everyone, including YOU, is evidence of wisdom, born of curiosity and compassion.

I’m here if you need or want to create the most amazing community of people. I can show you how to get it done and have lots of fun and awesome outcomes along the way! Help me fulfill my mission to create a world in which all people love their lives!

This article was published nationally in the column Emotional Intelligence in The Women’s Journal for Nov/ Dec 2018

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