I saw this post the other day from @dukewondc on Twitter about apologies and it inspired me to create this blog. Often times in life our pride gets in the way of apologies. It can be humiliating to say I’m sorry, but it is still such an important thing in any relationship. So let’s break down this tweet and talk about some different ways we can show that we are sorry.
Simply saying the words I’m sorry can be easy. It’s putting meaning and feeling behind those two words that make them matter. So say I’m sorry, but then back it up with emotion by continuing it with one or more of the others points on this list.
Owning guilt can be extremely humbling. It’s human nature to not want to be wrong. By admitting we’re wrong about something though, we are showing our sorrow to another person. Think about it. When you’re in an argument with someone, and they realize that you’re right, do you want them to simply say ok and walk away? More than likely you’d like to hear them say they were wrong and that they are sorry. Think about what you’d want if you were in the other person’s shoes the next time you find that you need to make an apology.
Name Specific Wrongs
Specificity lets others know that you are genuinely sorry. When apologizing to someone it is important to let them know that your feelings are honest.
- I’m sorry for telling you a lie.
- I’m sorry that I didn’t believe you about your story.
- I’m sorry that I listened to Becca and not you.
When an apology is needed it’s likely that you have impacted another person’s life in a negative way. Acknowledge that!
- I hurt you by talking to George behind your back and I’m sorry for that.
- I lost your trust when I lied to you. I’m so sorry.
- I’m sorry for making you feel an unnecessary pain because of my actions.
- Sorry if I made you mad.
- I’m sorry if I offended you.
- I’m sorry if you think that I am wrong.
The word “if” makes statements vague, so throw it out completely. “I am sorry that I offended you.” Period. No ifs, ands or buts about it!
Don’t Blame Shift/ Defend
Ever heard of a backhanded complement? That’s what an apology can turn in to with blame shifting. Saying I’m sorry and then adding “but…”, essentially eliminates any truth or emotion behind the apology. Take a look at the differences between these statements.
- I’m sorry you’re upset, but it’s not my fault.
- I’m sorry, but you were really annoying me.
- I’m sorry, but you’re the one who made me do it.
- I’m sorry that I hurt you.
- I’m sorry that I acted out.
- I’m sorry that I let it get to this argument.
The left side shifts the blame to others, while the right accepts the blame. Ultimately, that’s what an apology is for, so pay attention to your words. Don’t defend your actions and don’t make them someone else’s fault.
No Passive Voice
“I’m sorry you feel that way”… Using a passive voice like this essentially puts the blame on the other person. The point of an apology is to take the blame and admit wrongdoing, no matter how small it may seem. So try not to be passive about it!
The end of an apology begs the question, now what? I’ve said I’m sorry, I’ve taken the blame, now does everything go back to normal? More than likely not. It can be a process, and that’s okay, so let’s work on fixing the problem to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Ask the other person what you can do for them. Maybe they just need a little time to reflect, maybe they need you to hug them more often, maybe they need you to be more communicative, the list can go on and on. The point is, you’ve apologized, you meant it, and now you’re going to show it.
Apologies can be hard. @dukekwondc shared this list, I then read it and felt inspired to expand upon it, but I know that I’ll struggle with it still. This is one of those things that’s “easier said than done”. It’s okay though, practice will pay off here! Do you have any suggestions on effective apologies? We’d love to hear them!