All of us have uttered the word “sorry” many, many time in our lives. Some people say it so often that it is as much a part of their vocabulary as “hello” and “good-bye.” Some people cringe so strongly when they say it that it seems like “sorry” actually has a bad taste. Neither of these descriptions exude an authentic, meaningful apology. [Scroll down for VIDEO]
Merriam-Webster defines apology as “an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret.”
This definition is clear in what the word means, but actually giving a good apology can feel elusive, or like a talent that many struggle to achieve. I would like to help you change that by sharing with you five concepts that can help you create and deliver a quality apology and meaningful exchange with another.
This is the most important of all the concepts because truth and authenticity is key in order to offer true amends to someone as well as creating a change in interpersonal healing. We have all probably had an experience when someone utter the word “sorry” and it felt like a bold face lie. This neither draw anyone closer nor released someone from feeling bad about hurting another. Basically, this is a waste of an experience. Instead, take time to evaluate, think, reflect and perhaps study how someone felt wronged, even if it is not how YOU would think or feel. Then once you have been able to make this connection, identify honest words that truly reflect how you feel.
When preparing to give your apology, be mindful of how you may be explaining away the wrong actions. People often will say things like “I am sorry, but I was really stressed that day; and I didn’t even think about how important it was to be on time.” This kind of statement does not make the other feel like their feelings matter; adding context may be important down the road, but at the stage of offering an acknowledgment of transgression, the “why” doesn’t matter as much.
This word is just as you might imagine. It means presenting yourself in a soft, open and somewhat reverent manner. Especially in intimate relationships, most of the communication between people is non-verbal. This means that even if your words are perfectly crafted, it is your tone, body position and eye contact that will really send the messages. Sitting down next to or across from the other person, alternating between looking them in their eyes and looking down, and being able to show emotion through tears, a soft voice or gentle affection is the most effective way to communicate “I get that I wronged you and I care about you.”
This is the part of the puzzle that can get many people stuck. This is addressing the when, where, and how you will apologize. Timeliness of an apology is important; often times we want to apologize right away so that the other person can see that we are on top of things. However, for deeper and more complex issues, like betrayal or secret keeping, scheduling or inviting another to hear your apology sends the message that you respect their time and feelings [WHEN]. In addition, location matters as you want to acknowledge privacy as well as a place where you can manage distractions and be able to reveal yourself in the “soft “manner described above [WHERE]. Finally, how or what method is VERY important especially when the apology is going to an important person. Text, email or voicemails may work for minor infractions, but face to face is the most vulnerable method that offers the most opportunity for resolution and connection [HOW].
In a perfect world, saying “sorry” would be enough for people to wipe the slate clean and move on with no hesitation. However, many times an apology may not be met with forgiveness or acceptance. Instead, especially in difficult situations, it may be met with resistance. If one can create an apology that is sincere, thoughtful, mindful, and vulnerable then that is success. The reaction to it is the wild card. Instead, focus on doing your part and identifying how crafting and sharing this apology is representative of personal growth and that the other person’s reaction is theirs to have and you must respect and accept it as true. Finally, many times apologies must be delivered in higher doses. Saying “I’m sorry” may be a statement someone needs to hear and experience many times to begin to see the other as genuine and repentant.
A Final Message
The art of the apology is often like actual art in that its quality is in the eye of the beholder. However, creating and giving an apology has the opportunity for one to experience transformation and connection regardless of how another takes it.
You may be reading this simply for personal and/or interpersonal growth, but you may also be reading this because you’re relationship with someone you care about has been wounded; thus, an apology is needed for healing and reconciliation. If this is you, you should be proud of yourself for having the maturity and courage to further investigate on delivering a proper apology. However, if the offended party is suffering from a deeper wound that stems from events like betrayal, infidelity, abuse, addiction, etc., then I encourage you to consider working with a professional relationship counselor to better assist you (and your loved one) on how to proceed with healing. Keep on pressing forward.