Mosaic Minds Community Forums
"I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - Printable Version

+- Mosaic Minds Community Forums (
+-- Forum: Main Street (
+--- Forum: Steam Room (
+--- Thread: "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" (/showthread.php?tid=1132)

"I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - MakersDozn - 01-22-2014

This phrase really cheeses us off. So much, in fact, that it's hard for us to find the words to express exactly why. So we figured that we'd find out how other people feel about this issue.

We started out by finding an article on Yahoo! that we think explains the issue well:

"I'm Sorry You Feel that Way" is Not an Apology

Of course, what the author is saying applies not just to people in intimate relations, but to other kinds of relationships--friends, co-workers, etc.

Even though we agree with the article, we'd still like to hear thoughts from people here. Does it bother you when someone tells you "I'm sorry you feel that way"? If so, why? Maybe if people share their thoughts here, we'll have more tools to explain to others why this phrase is so upsetting.


RE: "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - nats - 01-23-2014

it's not a phrase that's intended as an apology and using it instead of an apology is either a misconception or dishonest.

it's initial usage, as far as we're aware was in US customer services training to calm irate customers while avoiding any suggestion of accepting blame by the company.

what it is actually saying is 'Your feelings are unfortunate and it's in no way my responsibility how you feel.' so, if you hear this from someone you consider has wronged you or someone who you expect love or compassion from it is very insulting and/or hurtful. if you hear it from a passive-aggressive customer services rep, then it's probably being used as intended ;-).

RE: "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - tweeter - 01-23-2014

I liked nats' post.
The Yahoo article was excellent. Except where it was mentioned that couples hardly ever fighting wasn't good. Well, I don't like bickering. Disagreements don't have to escalate into fights. Guess they're assuming that there's bottled up anger if a couple gets along too well. Could be that one or both are very slow to anger

I can't remember when last I was addressed in that manner. It's really invalidating.

Outside of customer service sorts, no one bothers to apologize to me anymore. I refer specifically to docs and so forth. Apologies wouldn't do it at this point.

RE: "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - MakersDozn - 01-23-2014

Agreeing with both of you. Re the part of the article about couples who don't fight very often....We think that the author's intent was to encourage people to assert their feelings constructively rather than keeping them bottled up. But it's true that some people don't fight very much, nor do they need to.



RE: "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - Tangled Web - 01-24-2014

Hi MDs. That phrase has ticked me off many times when I have heard it in that past.
Being a nurse we are taught every year and reminded about customer service. That is one of the phrases we are taught to say in situations where the clients or family members are expressing some kind of emotional response to something. Agreeing with what was stated above, it places the responsibility on the person who is actually feeling the feelings. It is explained to us that as working in this field, we automatically try to fix things and take on the patients or whomever problems and feelings and try to fix it, that is part of our job. That is when burn out can happen, so in order to prevent that, we place the responsibility back on the person but are still able to provide support and listen to their feelings and it helps us to NOT take it personally. When people are in an emotional state, they tend to overgeneralize and look for someone to blame......not everyone does this.......but in our experience I hear them say things like "everyone" and 'always" and it is hard to not take those types of comments personally at times but when you do, the conversation usually takes a turn because you no longer are listening to their concerns, you have started to defend your actions. So after you have listened to someone vent or express themselves, you say I am sorry you feel that way. They usually will feel validated and heard which is the first big piece of the puzzle -but you need to listen to WHY they feel that way and then usually they will be able de escalate so you can work on finding solutions if needed. This is just things we have been taught along the way.
It doesn't necessarily answer your question "why it cheeses you off" but when I get mad after someone says that to me, it is usually because I wanted them to help with something or wanted to be heard and after I have expressed some kind of emotion and then they say I am sorry you feel that way, I am left with my needs or wants still unmet. That is where my anger comes from. And by that point it is too late to ask for what I wanted in the first place, because I just want them to go away and flip them the bird.

RE: "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - MakersDozn - 01-25-2014


We get what you're saying about wanting the other person to take responsibility for his or her own feelings. That's usually the intent behind anyone who says this. But what it also does is absolve the speaker from taking responsibility for the actions that *caused* the feelings.

Or, to put it another way, we don't live in a vacuum. Our actions affect other people. Acknowledging this doesn't absolve the second person from taking responsibility for *dealing* with the feelings. But it does show that the first person recognizes that the effect of his or her behavior on others.

Re your situations as a nurse: Without going into too much detail, can you give an example of the kind of situation where a patient or family member would respond emotionally? We ask because there has to be some way to respond to this emotion in a way that ends up benefiting both parties.



RE: "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - Tangled Web - 01-25-2014

I can understand where you are going with this and I agree that it does tend to absolve the speaker from taking responsibility for actions that "caused" the feelings. But feelings stem from our interpretations of the words spoken or from the action taken. Those interpretations come from us. And often we can misinterpret the messages/actions, which will cause unpleasant feelings. The person that is delivering the message or action has no control how will we respond to them just like we have no control of what will come out of that person's mouth. It is a choice on how we chose to "feel" or respond just like it was a choice for them to do what they did. I am speaking from the "unintentional" action stand point.....don't get me wrong, I know there are just plain "mean" people out there but I also feel it is a choice how we respond to them and how we let them make us feel........This is not an easy thing to do. Things happen automatically too many times to count and we are just left with the feelings and are looking for someone to blame.......It would be nice for the person to stick around and listen to us after a feeling has been caused by what they say but instead they just say ....."I am sorry you feel that way" and then leave. Leaving us to deal with happened on our own and not feeling heard or that anything is resolved. For us that just fuels the fire and does make it difficult to work through those things.

I will try to give you a simple example-we have this one patient who will say that he hates living there, he is angry and he voices that anger freely. I listen to him say over and over he will be going home. I know that is impossible and there is no way he is going home. I don't tell him that though because that will fuel his anger. My job is to de-escalate the situation also. He can say he "hates me", he hate the people here, he hates the place. I know this is his anger speaking and I don't take that personally, those are HIS feelings at the time and his thoughts and his words.
So, I will say I am sorry you feel that way. AND then ask him what is going on or what happened and if there is anything I can do for him at this point in time. He usually has something he needs to be done and I try within my power to do that and he settles.

I want to give you another example that is a little more complicated. I have this one patient on my unit that has a wife who can be extremely volatile and blows up at me. She feels we are not taking good care of her husband. When she comes into visit, she usually ALWAYS has something to complain about. I am the team leader, so I get to hear all about it. She will over generalize and use the words like everyone, and all the time, and he is never..........that is where I struggle. I am now pulled into this conversation and I have gotten better at stepping back and not taking things so personally but there are times where I still do and she will get under my skin. I do say to her I am sorry you feel this way and many times I wish it would end there but it rarely does. It usually ends only when she is done venting and she will turn and look at me and say “WELL what are YOU going to do about it?” She wants me to take responsibility for her feelings. She want to lay blame, and she wants me to “fix” everything. Those situations are hard, because so many times I want to say “oh I am sorry I left my magic wand at home today.” (Sorry, a little unprofessionalism going on there) When we are dealing with those types of situations, you have to learn how to interpret things from the family member’s point of view. In this instance for example-this family member (his wife) is having difficulties accepting her husband’s decline. She feels guilty for not being able to care for him at home. And the list can go and on………There is usually ALWAYS a reason for an emotional response from someone, it is my job to figure that out.
Sometimes for me just saying I am sorry you feel that way is my first step in stepping back….. away from the situation and not taking it personally. I try to do that before a feeling is triggered in me because I know myself well enough, that as soon as a feeling is triggered it becomes so much harder to not take things personally.
I am an overachiever at work…….I try very hard to give people what they need and when I feel that is under attack it becomes personal for me. I have worked on this and have gotten much better  but it is very hard when you feel you can NEVER do anything right or nothing you do is good enough……I am better at recognizing that those messages come from my childhood and that is something I am trying to deal with. That is why those types of conversations with people are extremely challenging for me….. I can’t always say that I have done the “best” that I could because in my eyes……if this person has something to complain about then obviously I have NOT done my best, and then that leads into me feeling like I am NOT good enough and so on and so on. It is a slippery slope when I get to that point. But putting the responsibility where it belongs and not taking on their feelings helps me see that. And the only way I know how to do that is by saying “I am sorry you feel that way.” They might have made a comment that "made me feel" like I wasn't good enough, but that feeling was already there, they just triggered it. Does that make sense?

Not sure if this has been helpful to you or not…….but thank you for reading this far Smile this post has turned out much longer than I had expected.

RE: "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - MakersDozn - 01-26-2014

Thanks for taking the time to respond so thoroughly. We asked about your work situation mostly out of curiosity, knowing that your situation is different from the type of scenario that we originally posted about. In your work, the people you encounter are clearly upset by things that are beyond your control and have little to do with you personally. So it makes sense that to do your job well, and take care of yourselves while doing so, you need to step back and not take the other person's feelings personally.

However, this is not the kind of situation we originally posted about, where the source of conflict directly involves both people. We'll give an example that is a composite of various incidents between our mother (now deceased) and us.

We say or do something in her presence that we clearly did not intend to be amusing, and she reacts by laughing at us.

Us: Please don't laugh at me. I feel very upset when you do that. It feels humiliating to be laughed at.

Mother: Well, that's your perception.

The phrase "that's your perception" was our mother's variation of "I'm sorry you feel that way." She didn't even pretend to be sorry. She refused to admit that her actions had any effect on us. So we would leave these situations feeling unheard, invalidated, and very angry. These feelings remain with us today, and we struggle to work through them and resolve them.

We hope that this clarifies why we believe that the two types of situations are very different. It frustrates us that the whole issue is so complicated. And we wish there was some foolproof response that we could have ready for people that would get them to understand why their words can be hurtful even if/when they don't intend them to be that way.

Thanks again,


RE: "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - MakersDozn - 01-26-2014

Here's a great blog post on this topic. The comments are also worth reading:


RE: "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - Tangled Web - 01-27-2014

I agree MDs with you that your mother telling you those things in the past is very different than where I was coming from. Thank you for giving an example and I am so sorry she did that to you. I think the rules change when it comes to a parent a child and I haven't been able to figure that part out. It is very hard to process those things and the feelings when the parent hasn't taught you how to as a child. I also agree that it is very complicated. I don't have any fool proof response to say to people to get them see how their words might have effective us after they are spoken........There have been times I have said to a person I was close with after they have told me that they are sorry I feel that response was "no your not" and that would make them stop and want to talk about things. Sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn't. Mostly now I just try to process things on my own and end up shutting down. (I don't suggest this way of dealing with things). But like I said, I haven't figured out how to do that yet especially when it comes to dealing with my family.
I am here to listen though.

RE: "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - Tangled Web - 01-27-2014

(01-26-2014, 02:49 PM)MakersDozn Wrote: Here's a great blog post on this topic. The comments are also worth reading:


This is a great article MDs. It helps support your thoughts and feelings well. I agree that this phrase has taken on a whole different meaning and is not said in the same context as it was originally intended back when it was suggested and used as teaching a tool.

RE: "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - MakersDozn - 01-27-2014

Glad that you liked the article. And thanks for letting us know that you understand about the complexity of the parent-child dynamic.


RE: "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - dreamers - 02-16-2014

it really depends on who's saying it and why my best friend and i are from different cultures ( but, similar ones) this often causes culture shock and misunderstandings in which in cap R reality niether of us did anything wrong its just that our 2 cultures have different views on what's polite or right in a given context. Sometimes a phrase like that and space is the best way forward until emotions cool and we can better listen to each other

RE: "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" - MakersDozn - 02-16-2014

Good points, dreamers. Thanks.

It's not an easy issue for us, and we still struggle to find a way to come to terms with it.