Sincere Ways To Apologize To Someone You Hurt
With the stress that COVID-19 has brought upon all of us, nerves are naturally frayed. Whether you are dealing with the pandemic or other challenges, there have possibly been situations where you weren’t your best self. You might have relationships with friends, partners, relatives, or colleagues that need reconciliation and healing. So if you’re wondering how to apologize to someone, you’ve reached the right destination. Regardless of who is in the wrong, nothing comforts animosity quicker than saying “I’m sorry” but if you screw up your apology, things could get worse.
In her book A Good Apology: Four Steps to Make Things Right, clinical psychologist Molly Howes explains all the elements that constitute a solid apology. According to her, you should first understand the injury caused to the other person, express regret over the same, then make amends, and lastly, ensure it will never happen again. As you can imagine, this is easier said than done. So we’ve asked Howes and other experts to share tips that tell you how to apologize to someone you’ve hurt.
SEE ALSO: The Trouble With Answers
Listen with intention before rushing to apologize
Occasionally, quick apologies make sense. For instance, if you’ve bumped into somebody unintentionally, it only makes sense that you apologize immediately and help him pick up his groceries. However, if the matter is more complex, a rushed apology can seem insincere. So what should be done? First, ask yourself calmly what’s going on and try to understand how the other person could be feeling. Then shut up and listen no matter how uncomfortable it makes you.
Active listening requires you to make eye contact and make it clear that you are completely tuned in and sincerely focusing on what’s being said instead of preparing your rebuttal. By listening actively, you could truly understand the harm your missteps have caused. With this information, you could make your apology more heartfelt, specific and effective. You can also clarify with the other person if there’s been a misunderstanding. Your attentiveness will ensure the same mistake doesn’t repeat itself.
Prepare your apology in advance
Everybody has a different way to communicate. If you are seeking forgiveness from someone you have offended, you have to connect via their comfort zone, whether it’s in person, on the phone or over a video call. If you’ve written down your apology, pass it by someone you trust. If it’s in person, write down your apology still as it helps organize your thoughts and get it right. While there is no guarantee that you will be forgiven, this small step will count and help smooth things over.
Be specific and detailed in your apology
A declaration that you are sorrowful after you’ve said something to offend someone doesn’t make sense. If the other person has taken the effort to explain how you’ve caused hurt, try and mirror that vulnerability by expressing your regret, explaining why it happened, and showing how you’ll fix what you ruined.
The most important point is to explain to the other person how you know what damage you’ve caused and how you intend not to repeat the same again. For example, your partner is upset because you haven’t returned her calls. Tell her how you’re sorry for being unresponsive, explain it is because you were working overtime, say that reason doesn’t excuse anything, establish how important she is to you and confess how you know that your actions have caused her pain before ending with a promise like in the future you will make sure not to repeat the same mistake and shoot her a message instead.
It is also alright if you don’t know what you did that offended her in the first place. Simply admit to having screwed up. Coming clean can aid in restoring closeness.
Don’t turn your apology into a debate
Buts are among the worst things to use when you’re apologizing as they can undermine your sentiments and make the other person feel invalidated. If you want to take responsibility for what you did, you can’t doubt the other person’s hurt. Even though our first impulse is to defend ourselves, try not to be ambivalent in this regard. Be declarative instead.
Often you will feel tempted to turn an apology into a chance to address old disputes but remember that an apology isn’t a debate. It’s a dialogue that requires you to put the other person’s feelings first so try hard not to focus on your own issues while apologizing to another.
Remember that actions speak louder than words
Even though you may have the gift of the gab, action will definitely heal a rift better. So try finding a resolution to any wrongdoing. When I failed to read my friend’s memoir and upset him in the process, I made sure to read it at a later time and review it for him. It is important to offer validation to compensate for the suffering you have caused.
Be patient after you’ve apologized
Mending a relationship takes time. You may be rejected and you may have to repeat the process a few times over. In Jewish tradition, one is asked to offer sincere apologies three times. If it is not accepted, the unforgiving individual has to apologize for not forgiving. The idea is that you should try your best to make amends even in situations that don’t guarantee complete reconciliation. Once you express regret, keep yourself open because forgiveness will eventually come even if it’s not instantaneous.
Know that it is never too late to seek forgiveness
Sometimes people exit our lives before we can apologize to them or things get so antagonistic that apologizing seems impossible. If you’re struggling with how to apologize or are in a situation where you can’t apologize, don’t bottle those feelings. Instead, discuss your issue with a relative, mentor or therapist. They might be able to help you come to terms with not receiving forgiveness. They might even help you heal an estrangement or serve as a forgiveness surrogate.
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