The first one is about letting the other person feel seen and heard. When a colleague tells you how they got stuck on a traffic light and ended up getting to work late, most people don’t bother saying “I’m sorry that happened to you!” We feel like there is no point in saying that, we didn’t cause the lights to not turn green why bother saying I’m sorry? But “I’m sorry” might be all your colleague wants! Just because you didn’t cause their pain or frustration, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make them feel seen and heard!
The second one is the one we all know about. You forget to pass the store and get milk on your way back from work, you get home and you say to your spouse “I’m sorry…”. This one is about letting the other person know that you’re aware of what you did and you take for responsibility of the outcome. And remember, just because you said “I’m sorry”, the other person doesn’t have to let go of the thing, it might also mean you respect their time to process what happened and that you accept whatever decision they make.
We need more people saying “I’m sorry”, often!