Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

Lo siento

Some of you reading this will recognise the title of this week’s post as the Spanish term for “I apologise”.

However, the phrase, in its literal form has a subtly different meaning. The words “lo siento” actually translate as “I feel it”. Somehow, to me it comes across as a far more heartfelt and empathic phrase than “sorry” or “I apologise”.

By implication, when I apologise or say sorry, I am also beseeching: “please forgive me, please make it all right for me, make me all right again in your eyes”. Whereas, when I say “lo siento”, the implication is that I feel how it is for you – altogether a different perspective.

There’s been much apologising going on lately in UK public life – Diane Abbott and David Cameron being the two most recent examples. Are the apologies meant or are they merely politically expedient? Does the woman on the tannoy at Slough Station apologising for the delay to the 17.09 to Paddington mean it? Does that pre-recorded, disembodied voice feel for the inconvenienced passengers? Nah, of course not.

We British tend to say sorry quite a lot. Whether for knocking into someone in the supermarket with the trolley, arriving late for a crucial business or work meeting, or else for some oversight on the home front. I kind of mean it when I apologise, but does it really make any difference? Or is there a risk I’ll do it again?

If I’m honest, the answer to that last question can often be yes in my case.

On the other hand, were I able to say words to the effect of  “lo siento” or “I feel it” to my other half when I let her down, or to the colleague I’ve forgotten to call and really, really try to imagine things from their perspective then, perhaps, just perhaps  I’ll more likely remember for next time.

It can take a gargantuan effort to genuinely imagine how someone else may feel when they are inconvenienced, upset or disappointed as a result of something we have said, done or not done. Our natural instinct can be to defend our action or in-action and/or seek some kind of forgiveness, something that will make things right – for ourselves. An un-meant apology can do little to resolve a situation fully, and will at best act as a kind of cheap, temporary balm applied to the difficulty, married to an energy of simply wanting the problem to go away.

By imagining how it feels for the other party, I am more likely to understand their disappointment, upset or even anger – whether it is actually justified or not. It’s the understanding that counts.

So, next time you have the impulse to blurt out a pat apology for something, draw breath, put in the effort to imagine it from the other person’s perspective and think of the Spanish “lo siento”. Feel for them. Sure, then apologise  – in English, otherwise it could baffle, unless they happen to be Hispanic! This way, it will be done from the heart, and therefore more likely result in future change in behaviour and dynamic.

One for me to practise.

Adios for now, amigos!       


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3 Responses to “Lo siento”

  1. Brilliantly insightful, as ever Chris. Elton John got it right when he said “Sorry seems to be the hardest word”.

  2. You’ve raised the bar to new heights at the beginning of the year Chris. Keep doing this and you’ll have a fantastic vantage point at the end of the year!
    Your story is a great way of engaging with an idea that almost everyone would claim to understand but few would know what it really meant.
    Great stuff – more CM words of wisdom that will be woven into my work – thank you.

  3. Bravo amigo! Just the kind of stuff needed to create real awareness and empathy. Carry on the good work Chris.

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