Mark that down as the stupidest line in the history of famous movie lines.
It worked when Ali McGraw’s character said it to Ryan O’Neal’s character because she was dying. Sure, if you’re dying and in a movie you can say nonsensical things like that. Nobody’s going to make you live up to it!
Being willing to say I’m sorry — as well as knowing how and when to do so — is a must.
When and How to Say I’m Sorry
If you intentionally do something to hurt someone else and need to fix it, you must say you’re sorry and mean it. Going forward you cannot do that thing again. Meaning it and not doing it again are what make an apology valid. Saying the words doesn’t count if you don’t mean it. The recipient of your apology can tell if you don’t mean it and then the situation goes from bad to worse.
Most of us don’t have the guts to be overtly mean so the subtle approach is often employed but the result is the same. The insult is intentional and you know it. For example, carefully crafting an email that’s borderline bitchy so that you can falsely claim ignorance when the other responds with anger or hurt. “Why that’s not what I meant at all!” You say with mock surprise. That’s passive aggressive behavior as well as being immature. Not cool.
You must own your intention.
However, if you were truly caught off guard by their hurt reaction because your intent was pure, then say so. You’d do well to talk for a moment about what you meant and let the other person explain how they took it. But if your intent was honorable then let it go. In this case you also only have to own your intention, not what the other assumes is your intention.
Accepting an “I’m sorry.”
Accepting an apology requires as much grace as giving one. I once gave a sincere apology and got a bemused, “heh” in response. Which made me want to take my apology back and kick the person in the shins. (I did neither.)
Sometimes after receiving an apology the temptation is to pile on reasons why you deserve one. “Yeah. You were a total jerk and everyone thought so and that’s not all! Remember when you…”
Now is the time to graciously receive this sincere apology — not the time to rant on about how hateful and mean the apologizing person is before you accept.
A Better Line
That famous movie line was repeated by Barbra Streisand years later in the movie What’s Up Doc? When she said it Ryan O’Neal replied, “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”
Now that’s a good line.