An apology that is sincerely felt and delivered also means that you accept the responsibility of correcting the problem.
We’ve all done it. We’ve all said or done or caused something to be done that has hurt someone we’re supposed to love. In fact, sometimes, it’s tough not to! Now comes the tough part – the apology.
Why should apologizing for something we know we did be so tough? Well, the simple answer is: we don’t practice it enough to know how to do it well. But, if you’re smart (and I know you are!) you’ll learn not only how to apologize properly, but how to turn it into a relationship-building event.
Step #1 – Apologize When It’s Right
I see so many people apologizing for the wrong things. They apologize when they are afraid of losing someone. They apologize when nothing was done to earn it. They apologize just to appease someone else. They apologize even when they feel they have the right to feel a certain way, etc.
Not only is this a wasted apology, it actually diminishes the impact of the real apology that you will have to deliver later on. After all, apologizing when it’s not necessary only makes others question your sense of what’s really right and what’s really wrong.
Thus, if you don’t believe you owe an apology, don’t just hand them out like flyers for your brother’s punk band. Make them special and meaningful when you give them.
Step #2 – Know What You’re Apologizing For
Sure, this seems obvious but you’d be surprised at how few people really know what they are (or should be) sorry about. They either lack the perspective to realize what was wrong or they don’t care to know. Either way, this is an insincere, worthless apology. Even worse, the person receiving the apology will eventually figure this out and any self-exposure you might have delivered along with your apology gets added to the debt-side of your ledger.
Further it can introduce new issues in an already tense situation that you then have to defend or correct.
When you apologize for something, it can take on the focus as to why other things are going wrong – at least in the receiver’s mind. Now, not only do you have to fix the original problem, but by backtracking, misdirecting and obscuring the problem, you also have to do damage control.
Step #3 – Be Clear And State The Apology
I’m constantly amazed at how many people think they’ve apologized and how few receivers of these apologies feel the same way.
When you apologize, use the words “I’m sorry” or “I apologize”. Anything less is ambiguous and unclear.
Step #4 – Get To It!
Don’t let a needed apology wait. Time diminishes the value and impact of an apology.
Step #5 – Put It To Bed
After you apologize, don’t continue to self-flagellate. Let it go and move on. Continuing to do penance after an apology simply says that you don’t believe in the sincerity of your own apology! Further, don’t agree to take on punishment. It’s not your lover’s job to punish you. S/he is not your mother! Nor is it your job to self-punish.
An apology that is sincerely felt and delivered also means that you accept the responsibility of correcting the problem. By first explaining clearly and precisely what you’re apologizing for and then delivering the apology, it gives the other person the chance to be the bigger person and accept it and move forward.
If your lover won’t accept your apology and wants to continue the issue, that’s another thing entirely, but frankly, it’s pretty rare.
This is a case where you need to focus on the outcome – not the apology itself. What do you hope to accomplish here? What’s going to change from here on out? What changes will they see in you? If you focus your discussion on these things instead of the problem itself, you’re working on the relationship between you and your partner.
The most important question to answer is: how will your relationship grow?