I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you forgive me? These statements are not always easy to say, especially if you don’t mean them. Being on the receiving end of a hollow apology, often causes resentment and keeps the initial flare up flaming. People know what an apology feels like. They can hear it in your tone, see it in your eyes, and feel it with your words.
There are all types of reasons that people apologize. The most common are:
- Not wanting the other person to be mad.
- To get the other person to act a certain way so that the person apologizing is no longer uncomfortable.
- They feel like they should.
- There is an expectation that they will.
- They are truly sorry.
Think for a moment about some of the apologies you have given. How many times have you said you were “sorry” when you weren’t? What kind of a result did you get? What compelled you to say it if you didn’t mean it? Were you manipulating the situation for your benefit? It’s important to examine the motivation behind your words so that you can find out why we are apologizing in the first place. If your reason is to get someone to act or feel differently so that you can be okay, that is not a genuine reason to apologize and is dishonest.
If you are sorry, even if you aren’t exactly sure what you have done, but you can see that your actions have led to the discomfort of another person, clean it up. You will feel better immediately. Apologizing is a form of respect and love. It builds trust and character. Saying you’re sorry can be a painful pill to swallow. But in the end, ask yourself, do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?
Tips to an effective apology:
- Apologize in person whenever possible. Human contact is powerful. Being able to see the other person’s face, making eye contact, and humbling yourself by being brave enough to show up, indicates that you’re sorry.
- Own your behavior by stating your offense. Be specific. If you don’t know what you have done, ask.
- Ask what you can do to make it right.
- Whenever possible, apologize as soon as you realize that you need to. Letting time go by can cause damage.
When you are on the receiving end of an apology, it is important to accept it gracefully. Rubbing another person’s nose in it, having a long dialogue about how upset you are, and saying it’s fine, when it isn’t are tools that will not serve you well in building the relationship.
Receiving an apology:
- Let it go. Holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and wanting the other person to die. It only hurts you.
- Ask yourself how important is it? Will this situation affect you in a day, a week or a year? Most of the time it won’t.
- Have compassion. Realize that apologizing is hard and that people make mistakes. Ask yourself how you would like to be treated if you were apologizing from the heart and do that.
- Don’t punish. It’s mean and in the end, you might be the one to owe an apology.
- State what you need the person to do to make the wrong, right and be accepting if they cannot.
A genuine apology expresses regret, accepts responsibility, and offers restitution and requests forgiveness. When offered this way, most apologies are received with grace and relationships move forward stronger than before.
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