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Old 10-26-2002, 09:20 AM
Stellablue Stellablue is offline
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Location: Coastal Carolina USA
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Difference between I'm sorry and apology

What is the correct way to show sympathy or concern for someone in daily social interactions?

I often reply to a co worker with "I'm sorry." when they tell me of some trouble. No matter if it is "I lost my hat." or "My dog died." or "I have a cold." I reply "I'm sorry." Most of the time they say, "It's not your fault."

I don't want to imply that I am taking responsibility or making an apology for my actions as I would in saying "I'm sorry" if I stepped on somebodys foot.

Does this happen to you? What am I doing wrong?
English is my native language.
Old 10-26-2002, 09:24 AM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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Try any of these, which vary in severity:

"I'm sorry that happened."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"That's sad."
"That's a shame." (be particularly careful, hard not to sound sarcastic)
"That's too bad." (see above)
"Oh, no."
"Rotten luck."
"I hate when that happens."
Did you see that ludicrous display last night?
Old 10-26-2002, 09:39 AM
black rabbit black rabbit is offline
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"Manhattan moved my thread to IMHO."

"Sucks to be you."
Old 10-26-2002, 10:26 AM
Firebat023 Firebat023 is offline
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Ohio
Posts: 135
When I was in training, I was taught never to say "I'm sorry;" it's self-belittiling, like saying you're a piece of crap. It was one of those lessons that stuck with me. So now it's "I'm sorry to hear that," like KneadtoKnow said. Or "I apologize" if something was my fault. It's funny the crap you learn in boot camp. :P
Old 10-26-2002, 10:55 AM
merbelle merbelle is offline
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: jersey shore
Posts: 24
I think you're the correct one. It seems that people do not know how to receive general sympathy. the American Heritage Dictionary's first definition of "sorry," is [1. Feeling or expressing sympathy, pity, or regret.]

Sympathy and pity were mentioned first, and they are not the same functions as an apology. [1. An acknowledgment expressing regret or asking pardon for a fault or offense. ]

Others are correct in mentioning that a more specific statement would work. Mostly it would sound more personal and therefore more caring. But it's sort of witless for someone to feel the need to cancel out your general concern by pointing out it's not your fault that their dog died or that they are feeling unwell.

Better for them to reply with an equally general statement such as, "Thank you for caring, it feels good to know that." Or at least a nod and half-smile, for Bob's sake.

Old 10-26-2002, 02:43 PM
Stellablue Stellablue is offline
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Coastal Carolina USA
Posts: 198
Yes, I think I will try "That's too bad." Because even when I say "I'm sorry you are ill." they reply that it's not my fault.

I am concerned and most times would be gald to talk to them about whatever misfortune has befallen them. If they don't want a response, why do they tell me? A reply like "It's not your fault" makes me feel cut off and can find nothing more to say.
The most difficult is when they reply, "Yeah, you are sorry" or "You are a sorry so and so." Trying to be smart or cute or whatever they trying. Just sounds rude to me.
Old 10-26-2002, 02:49 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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Stellablue, I find that these people tend to be the kind of person who has been inculcated, as Firebat023 was, to believe that "I'm sorry" has no meaning other than as an apology. It is sad that there are people who want their language to be so limited and literal, but they are out there. Another approach would be the following:
Unfortunate Person: I'm coming down with a cold.
Stellablue: I'm sorry.
UP: It's not your fault.
Stella: Actually, it is. I put a curse on you last week, and I see it's finally working. What I'm really sorry about is that it's taken so long. I bet it won't even kill you, either. Lousy cut-rate witch doctor. If only we had Blue Cross, I could afford a good one and you'd already be out of my hair.
I'd really only recommend that with people who have a good sense of humor, though.


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