One of the reasons relationships are so valuable is that they have the potential to be wonderful buffers against stress. Paradoxically, they can also be a significant source of emotional pain and stress when conflicts arise. We are all guilty of saying things or telling stories out of anger or frustration, we later regret. When this happens, we can tap into the graciousness inherent in apologizing to repair the damage. But the apology needs to be done sincerely or risk worsening the situation.
What Does a Sincere Apology Look Like?
For the most part, a sincere apology consists of a statement with two important elements:
1. It shows that you regret your actions, and
2. You recognize the pain your actions caused
Why are Apologies So Difficult?
A lot of people know how a sincere apology can heal a stressed relationship, so why do we find it so hard to do?
One reason is that it requires bravery because apologizing, in some cases, means admitting guilt which puts us in a vulnerable position. Being in this position opens up the possibility of blame or resentment from the offended person.
Another reason is that people often feel embarrassed and ashamed for what they did or said while they were angry.
For other people, apologizing makes them feel like they are inadequate. They don’t feel like they have made a mistake, instead they feel that there is something inherently wrong with them.
Why are Apologies Important?
When we have wronged someone, apologizing is not just the polite thing to do. Giving a sincere apology shows respect for the person you have wronged. It shows that you care about their feelings. Apologizing sincerely also:
– Helps us put conflicts behind us and turn a new leaf.
– Apologizing shows that we are concerned about the other person’s feelings.
– It shows that we value the relationship with the other person.
– It is the first attempt to mend fences.
How to Apologize
- Choose a good time to apologize
“There is a time for everything.” That also includes a good time to apologize. The best and most sincere apology might not yield fruits and can even be taken the wrong way when the timing is not right. There are times when you should aim to apologize immediately after the wrongdoing, and there are times when you need to wait for it to cool off for some time. It all depends on the wrongdoing and the person’s personality. Either way, it will be advantageous to choose the right time.
- Take responsibility for your actions
After you have chosen a favorable time to apologize, you can start by acknowledging the wrongdoing and taking responsibility for your actions. This is not the time for vague statements like, “I’m sorry if what I did offended you” or telling stories about how they hurt you in the past. Take responsibility for the specific thing you did. This does not mean you are the only one at fault for the entire conflict. In fact, the other person might have provoked the wrongdoing. However, a sincere and gracious apology only covers your part of the conflict.
- Express regrets and try to make amends
The next thing to do is to express regret while apologizing. Show them your apology is genuine. They should be able to sense that you feel bad for making them feel bad. You can do that through your choice of words (e.g., “I wish I could take it back”), your body language and the tone of your voice. If it is possible to make amends, then make amends. For example, if you know what to do to rebuild trust do it, or if you destroyed something of theirs, try to replace it.
- Focus on your apology, not the results
If you truly regret your actions and your apology is sincere, then chances are you will be forgiven. But that’s not for you to decide. You can do your part, but you can’t control the outcome. They could forgive you immediately or they might need more time to do so. Do your part and let it go.
Tap into the grace of sincere and genuine apologies, to make things right in your relationships.