I'm Sorry --For What Exactly?


Given how much tennis is a part of my life, I am surprised that this might be the first blog where I write about it directly.


When I play tennis, I say “I’m sorry” over and over.  I rarely hit the ball over the net and into the court, often it is over the fence (I am pretty strong!).   And each time, I say “sorry.”

Today, I was watching a video of Rafa Nadal practicing —prepping for Wimbledon (GO RAFA!!).
He missed a ball and said something in Spanish.  I could barely hear it and my Spanish isn’t that great.  My first thought was, “I bet he wasn’t saying ‘I’m sorry.”

So why do I?

And why do you?

In my tennis playing my “I’m sorry” (my regret) comes from the belief that my not hitting the ball over the net and into the court generates an experience for my partner that is annoying or unpleasant in some kind of way.  I am thinking that they might like an opportunity to hit the ball from time to time while we are playing together.  In fact, I have been assured many times, that my belief is not actually true.  My partner (Steve is who I play tennis with —not Rafa) plays tennis in order to have his movement and outdoors needs met.  And, fun is also a big one for him.  So, if we are moving and laughing he is all about it.   After a while, if I continue to apologize, it actually decreases the fun we are having.  

Also, in real tennis, if I don’t hit the ball over the net and into the court, my partner gets the point.  It is the opposite of a reason to apologize on the ATP tour.  My opponent would be happy that I miss. Especially if I miss a lot!

There are some people I am with from whom I hear “I’m sorry” so often that I get confused and frustrated, because I’m not sure how to respond.  Whatever they are apologizing for didn’t register as a thing for me. Depending on the situation —meaning if I am with friends in a social situation, I might ask what they are sorry for, and then it might occur as work, for both the other person and myself.  Like I am coaching them.  Which we haven’t actually agreed together that we want to do.  [In a coaching session, I am very likely to bring it up as a thing, if it happened.]  

What are you apologizing for?  Are you even aware of when you do and don’t say you are sorry?  Are you actually sorry?  And what for?  

Do you sometimes notice it in others?  How do you navigate when others say they are sorry to you for things you don’t want forgiven?  Do you speak up?  Do you keep quiet?  Do you do remain silent and hold judgments of the other person?  If you have judgments, do you believe them?  

Can you find compassion (the needs the person is trying to meet) when they say “I’m sorry”.


Possibly they, like me when playing tennis, are believing something that isn’t true.  We do this in many ways, apologizing often is just one way of it revealing itself.  And in the case of saying “I’m sorry” is an indication that whoever is saying it is likely living with the false impression that they have done something wrong or are doing something wrong.  Hearing it over and over, I get the impression that their story of “I’m not good enough” is very strong.  

And that thought is something I have great compassion for, and interest in interrupting with and for the people I care about.