Oh, my — this is beautifully conveyed! I feel like I need to embed your response into my original article!
I think so many people have an issue with #4. It is difficult for people to be honest in what they are truly willing to commit to. Saying “no” is a challenge for most. (Oddly, I never had a problem with it. I saw it as honesty rather than being hurtful.)
You are so right about the additions of “if”, “but”, or “maybe”. I would prefer no apology over a cobbled-together, muddied sort-of-an-apology.
You could not know this, but your complimenting my “grace” is particularly touching. That was my mantra during my divorce a few years ago and has remained a guiding force in my decision-making.
A friend once commented that I was the most “compassionately honest” person he’d ever met. I won’t hide or lie to someone, but neither will I intentionally wound (unless someone refuses to back off, then watch out!).
I innately straddle some bizarre line of grace and directness.
In any case, I thank you for reading my story, for your insight, and for your thoughtfulness.