“Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past.”
~ Tryon Edwards
We’ve all heard that same non-chalant kind of apology over and over again.
“I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings.”
Or even worst…
“I’m sorry but…”
Chances are, most of us have given these types of apologies to those around us as well. It’s not because we are not sorry. Most of the time we truly do feel regret. Yet we tend to hold pride within us that doesn’t like to admit when we are even slightly in the wrong.
Owning up to our mistakes is an essential part of fostering healthy and successful relationships.
Learning how to apologize meaningfully will not only strengthen your relationships, but it will make the healing process of the aftermath that much easier for you as well as the other party involved.
The truth is, we are human and we are all going to make mistakes once in a while. It is what we do after we make those mistakes that will determine the kind of person we are.
Next time you own up to something, keep these 3 techniques in mind…
1. Express your remorse.
Every apology must begin with the two magic words, “I’m sorry.”
Say the words sincerely and honestly. Do not add any “if”s or “but”s to your apology.
By apologizing, you are expressing your remorse for the situation. It is taking responsibility for your actions, even if it might hurt your pride slightly.
An authentic apology sounds something like this, “I’m sorry I said those things to you. I feel ashamed by the way I acted.”
Expressing your humility will show the other person that you care about them and that you didn’t hurt them on purpose.
2. Skip the excuses.
An apology doesn’t need an explanation, excuse, or reason. Giving an apology along with an excuse de values your apology.
It shows that you are apologizing for the sake of seeming like you feel regret, as opposed to actually empathizing with the person that you hurt.
Giving an excuse means that you are not taking responsibly for your actions. It is stating that your actions were validated by whatever your excuse was.
An example on an excuse is, “I’m sorry I yelled at you but you were making me really angry.”
With the example above, you are essentially saying that if YOU didn’t make me angry, I wouldn’t have yelled. Far from an apology, this sentence actually puts blame upon the person you are “apologizing” to.
We make excuses for our actions due to fear of being wrong or suffering consequences. We protect ourselves by giving the apology for face value, but not actually taking responsibility for the action.
Before giving an excuse filled apology, take a little time to think about your actions. A meaningful apology requires reflection, vulnerably, and courage.
It is better to apologize when you truly mean it, as opposed to hastily and meaninglessly.
3. Make amends.
If the situation is rectifiable, show that you are going to take action to fix your mistake.
Ask the person if there is anything YOU can do for them in order to make the situation better.
Remember though, be proportionate with your mends. You may be tempted to give more because of your guilt, but do not let this be a factor. Making amends means fixing or replacing what you have “broken”. Only offer what is appropriate for the situation.
4. Don’t expect forgiveness.
Sometimes an apology might not be returned with forgiveness, at least not right away.
It takes time for people to heal and forgive. Just as it took you time to reflect on your mistake, it is going to take time for the other person to process, accept, and forgive.
You may be forgiven right away or it might take some time. Other times you may not be forgiven at all.
In the case of the latter, an apology doesn’t always render forgiveness. An apology is altruistic. It is given without the expectation of getting anything in return. Not expecting forgiveness should never be a reason not to apologize.
Often times however, if you show humility to others, they will show it back.
It’s important to remember that none of us are perfect. We are all going to make mistakes just as we are all going to forgive others for their mistakes. Remember to have compassion, no matter which end of the apology you are on.