“Two common sayings bother me, “ Ms. Anne said yesterday morning before the rush. “And you know the third statement that irritates me.”

“Yes, I’ve heard you rant about ‘no problem’ when you think a ‘you’re welcome’ is proper,” I said. “So what are the other statements?”

“People think they apologize by saying only the word ‘Sorry.’ And then there’s the lame ‘If I have offended you, I apologize,’ which makes the matter your problem and not the act of the offending party.”

“Ms. Anne, that’s just the way people talk today. You’re putting too much meaning in it.”

“Am I? What’s an apology? Before you try to answer, I’ll tell you that I think an apology recognizes that one has done something wrong. At the least, it shows a sense of regret.”

“And isn’t that what people communicate when they say, ‘sorry’ or the other?”

“No, it does not. Simply blurting or writing the word ‘sorry’ still leaves the other person hanging with a sense that an offense or a slight has been minimized and disregarded. What if you spilled coffee on a customer? If you only said, ‘sorry’ or ‘sorry about that,’ we’d certainly lose a customer and might even get sued. Why is the person sorry? That goes unanswered with that one word.”

“OK, Ms. Anne, I think you’re thinking too much, but what about the other?”

“It’s simple if you pay attention. When someone says ‘If I have offended you, I apologize,’ the other person is left in the position of victim. There is no transactional satisfaction. For example, the electric company sent me a slip of paper in their last bill with the words, ‘If we have offended you, please pardon us.’ They cut off my electricity by accident, and it took a day on the telephone to straighten out the mess. ‘If we have offended you’—that’s the least of what happened! But they didn’t admit to doing anything wrong and they certainly did not apologize. Do you see my problem?”

Before I could answer, Ms. Anne said, “People are coming in. Let’s enjoy today.”