“A sincere apology has three parts: I am sorry; It is my fault; and What can I do to make it right?”
A friend recently complained that in 30 years of marriage her husband had only ever apologized about three times!
Saying sorry and really meaning it goes along way in building and reinforcing the friendship and connectedness of relationships.
For some it is not a big deal and it can roll off the tongue too easily!
When sorry is offered as a replacement for commitment to changing behaviors, then resentment and despair set in.
However, it is enormously therapeutic when the opposite occurs. That is, when a person has the humility and courage to really acknowledge that they have caused hurt and pain and to take steps to amend the situation.
Being truly prepared to walk a mile in another’s shoes, to listen fully, and to try and understand the effects of your behavior without justifying or defending it, this is where deep healing becomes possible.
Don’t take me word for it! Try it for yourself!
Commit to seeking to understand fully the way your partner feels about a point of hurt in your relationship and then check to see that you have got it from their perspective. You may like to ask, do they feel understood.
Then, when you feel you understand the disappointment or the anger or the sense of unfairness or mistrust or whatever it is that has occurred, then it is so much more powerful to offer an apology that is heartfelt and sincere.
However, it is also possible to apologize sincerely, even when you feel you cannot really understand what your partner is feeling.
Simply by being willing to be open to their perspective, and to have the courage and honesty, even when you feel that it is not your fault, to say I am sorry for my part in creating this situation, healing is promoted!
A sincere apology is like a balm to the woundedness of our human psyche.
And the words “I am sorry, please forgive me”, will most likely, when combined with an honest acknowledgement of responsibility, heal the person who offers it, even if the apology is not received.
A sincere apology is like a gift that opens the heart and has a ripple effect throughout the relationship.
Margie Ulbrick, LLB/BA/GD SOCSCI – www.margieulbrickcounselling.com
First, check your motives.
Make very certain that you are giving the apology because you feel that you are the one who was in the wrong. You are willing to acknowledge it and accept responsibility for it.
Secondly, make certain that you are in a healthy place.
Any residual anger, resentment, or unhealthy emotions on your part must be dealt with completely. The act of apologizing places you in a position of vulnerability, and an individual can easily be re-triggered. With that said, take care of your unfinished business.
Thirdly, although this relates to the first point, check yourself to see if you are holding expectations of the other person.
Are you hoping from an apology from him/her? Are you hoping for a renewal of the relationship? Other hopes?
The act of apologizing in NOT for the other person.
It is for you! It is so you can be in a healthier place as you move forward with your life and your relationships. What the other person does with the apology is his/her decision.
Lastly, keep the apology simple and straight forward.
Don’t play games. Use “I” statements. Identify the behavior for which you are apologizing and consider asking for their forgiveness. Don’t make promises about future behaviors.
An example is as follows:
I want to apologize for the disrespectful way that I spoke. I was highly inappropriate. I hope that you will forgive me. I am deeply sorry.
Give the other person time to digest your apology.
If more dialogue ensues after the apology, make sure you self-check. Often, this can lead to another argument or disagreement. Remember what your original intent was and is – apologizing.
Holli Kenley, M.A., MFT – www.hollikenley.com
Everyone knows that if you are going to apologize to someone, the worst thing you can say is, “I’m sorry that…”
If you are truly sorry for something hurtful that was done or said, the best way to apologize is to just say, “I’m sorry” and leave it at that.
The sooner the apology is said, the better it is.
If you wait weeks or months, it can still clear the air, but the pain and resentment may have built up, making the potential for forgiveness more difficult.
Sincerity is the key component here.
A true apology happens when your heart and mind are in sync, when you understand emotionally and intellectually what transpired and you take responsibility for unintentionally causing someone else to feel bad.
After your apology, avoid being defensive, because that would ruin the moment.
“I’m sorry I said that, but I thought you wanted me to be honest,” is not the same as, “I’m so sorry I hurt you.” We often tend to justify why we did what we did and that can cloud the focus of the apology.
Instead of wondering why the situation happened, understand that someone was hurt because of you and now you can resolve the situation through your heartfelt words.
Your sincere apology can be either written or spoken, but both must express your genuine intention for making amends.
People can see through a phony attempt to appease another person. While you may want to apologize because you feel guilty, you are still making things right with someone else, so the intent is appropriate.
It’s hard to apologize for something you did, but a few simple words can make the difference between ruining your relationship or having a relationship.
We all want to know that someone will do better if they knew better. Become a better person so you avoid making this same mistake over and over again in your new relationships.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
Couples fight. Things get said or done that we wish we could take back. But we can’t undo what has been done. Sometimes we need to make amends.
However, a simple, “I said I’m sorry, now can we just move on?” is not going to cut it. As a matter of fact it will probably just lead you full circle back to where you started.
For an apology to be accepted, the person on the receiving end needs to feel understood.
In addition, there are some nonverbal cues that you can send to show you mean what you are saying.
Tips for an effective apology that allows you to move forward.
- Be sincere. Say something to show you are sincere. For instance you might preface your apology with something like: “I know you may not be able to hear me right now, but I want you to know that I mean what I am about to say.”
- Make physical contact. Hold your partner’s hands. Turn your body towards their body. Look them in the eye.
- Speak slowly and gently.
- Pause to make sure the other person is receiving the message you are delivering.
The most important thing is to ensure the other person that you understand WHY they are hurt by what you did. When you apologize show that you understand their pain.
For instance, if you made a joke about their cooking when they were trying hard to make a good meal, it may not go over well.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have made that joke about your cooking. I know that you tried very hard to make a good meal for me and that you were looking forward to me enjoying the meal. I also know that you are really sensitive about this because the last person you dated wouldn’t eat your cooking. I’ll do my best to be more sensitive in the future. Do you accept my apology? Can I give you a hug?”
- Acknowledge how you hurt them.
- Reassure them that you will try not to do it again (no guarantees ‘cause no one is perfect)
- Accept responsibility for your behavior.
- Ask if they accept your apology.
- Ask if you can make amends (by hugging, etc.)
Work on these apology skills and guaranteed, things will be resolved much more quickly!
Dr. Christina Robert – www.singlemomontherun.com
When you do something that requires an “I’m sorry”, the best line of response is simply “I’m sorry”.
Look that the person in their eyes and have it come from your heart. When you start to tell all the reasons why you are sorry, it can come off as a defense for why you did what you did.
The other person is more concerned that you fully understand why they are mad or sad about your actions.
The “I’m sorry” can also include something along the lines of “I know I hurt you” or “I know what I did affect you”. It’s a basic necessity that people are understood and heard by others, especially our significant others.
Not sure if your apology is not from the heart?
Then that’s another issue to address. If you did something that caused upset in your relationship, then you will need to explore why your apology would not be sincere. Do you have a rationalization for your behavior? Do you feel justified in your actions?
If you can answer yes to those questions or yes to a similar line of questioning, then reflection is required.
Sit down and think about why you feel that way. Explore how you could change your perspective or how you can honestly express yourself.
In the end, as long as your apology comes from a place of sincere regret and gratitude that you have the opportunity to do it differently in the future, then it will come across as sincere.
Remember, an apology is about connecting with the other person, not defending or explaining your behavior.
Amanda Patterson, LMHC – www.amandapattersonlmhc.com
Apologies are difficult to give due to the one giving it has to “swallow their pride” generally.
No one likes to be wrong but taking responsibility allows other to respect and trust you later on. We all know people that just refuse to apologize and think how you see them. Do you really want to be that person?
So understanding the basics is very important.
People do not want to hear a “distraction technique” or simply another way to point out the others flaws or blame the other.
They also do not want to hear how the person apologizing is “sooooo sooorrrry” for something they do over and over.
They also do not want to hear a “pity party technique”. Nor do they want to hear a fake or “I’m just doing this ‘cause I have to.”
An apology has 3 distinct purposes:
- To express a learned lesson,
- To express an understanding of the emotional toll and
- To ensure not to repeat the behavior again.
The feeling of someone needing an apology is that something was taken from them.
For instance if your friend lies to you, then the feeling of “they must not be your friend, otherwise why would they hurt you like this”. So the feeling of losing a friend has happened.
If an apology is needed then the person needs to verbalize their behavior and how it affected the other person.
DO NOT specify the other person’s faults or finger point because this appears as though you are not taking responsibility thus not sincere.
The “sooooo soooorrryyy” routine can emphasize your regret, which is helpful to the other person, but not if this apology begins to sound like a recording which again is not sincere.
When apologizing, it is not helpful to emphasize the hurts thrust upon you if you are attempting to ease the hurts you have thrust upon this person.
Focus on the person you are giving an apology. Explaining circumstances is fine but ALWAYS take responsibility for your decisions and actions.
Be very, very clear about what you are apologizing to prevent the appearance of dodging responsibility.
Lastly, make sure the tone in your voice is sincere.
If the apology is forced for other reasons, it will show. Live life bold and strong but don’t forget to those around you or it could be very lonely.
Katherine Woodworth, LPC – www.fairwaycounseling.com
Most people don’t realize this, but there is an “art” to making apologies.
Outlined below you will find the guidelines I use in my own life and in my work with clients in my practice.
1. Know what you are apologizing for
I’m sure some of you reading this know that feeling that comes from being on the receiving end of an “empty” apology. You know, the one where you realize the person apologizing has no clue what they are apologizing for, but they are saying “I’m sorry” anyways.
Do not be afraid to ask what you are apologizing for if you don’t know.
Conversely, don’t get mad at your partner if they ask you what they are apologizing for. If they don’t know, there’s a good chance the behavior will be repeated in the future.
2. Take ownership and say “I’m sorry”
When you apologize, take responsibility for what you are sorry for. For example, “I’m sorry that I became angry and raised my voice at you” is a simple, yet effective apology. Passive-aggressive apologizing is not an apology.
“I’m sorry you got angry when I raised my voice.”
You are not apologizing for the way the other person feels. You are apologizing for your part of the transgression.
If you know that something you said or did usually upsets your partner, validate that.
Using the example above:
“I’m sorry that I became angry and raised my voice at you. I know how much that frightens you and it was not my intention to scare you like that.”
4. Make a plan for next time
This last step may not always apply, but it can be helpful as a point of conversation with you and your partner. It allows you (the person apologizing) to explore what you need to do for yourself to prevent this act from happening again.
Using the example above:
“I’m sorry that I became angry and raised my voice at you. I know how much that frightens you and it was not my intention to scare you like that.
When I get really angry like that, I need to step away from the argument so that I don’t raise my voice.
I promise to come back and talk with you about it, but I just need 20 minutes to cool down.”
As the partner being apologized to, find out if there’s anything you can do differently to help support your partner in finding success with this.
As the partner being apologized to, accept the apology if you are willing to do so. If you are accepting an apology, you are also making a commitment to let this go and not to use it as against your partner in the future.
We all make mistakes and we can learn from them and make different choices the next time an opportunity presents itself.
Laura Pryor, LIMHP, LPC, PLADC – www.laurapryortherapy.com
You may not, except with express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content. Nor may you transmit it or store it in any other website or other form of electronic retrieval system.