If you have been in a relationship for a while, chances are good that you have developed some not-so-helpful ways of communicating. Many times, after you’ve done something to hurt or offend a loved one, you add insult to injury with either no apology or a poor one.
We have all at times experienced our pride rising up in our hearts when we know we should apologize to a loved one after we have done or said something that was hurtful or offensive. Our pride can keep us from being honest with ourselves and others because we don’t want to admit when we are wrong. But that kind of pride shows how little respect we have for others and can cause people to alienate themselves from us.
Delivering a heart-felt apology is sometimes hard to do — but critical to maintain healthy relationships. Many people say “I’m sorry” thoughtlessly because they want to quickly move away from the pain of the other person, or they don’t really mean it.
Sadly, that only waters down the value of an apology.
An inadequate apology often creates a slow-burn of resentment between you and the other person. It essentially guarantees that the unresolved hurt will seep into the next interaction because nothing gets resolved.
"Never ruin an apology with an excuse." ― Benjamin Franklin
Learning how to apologize is an art. Learn it well – practice it. The faster the repair with an apology– the faster the relationship will flow back into a healthy and meaningful one.
Elements to the art of the flawless apology:
- Always make a face-face apology, when possible. Use email or text only as a short-term solution – and then follow-up with a sincere phone or in-person apology. Never use social media.
- Be prepared that there might be a bad start to your apology. The other person might use it as an opportunity to fire back at you. Keep your calm. These kind of defensive maneuvers from the other person comes from hurt and anger. Accept it. And continue with your apology when they cool down.
- Tone of voice is key. If you aren’t sorry, don’t say that you are. Wait until you can give an authentic apology.
- Ask the other person how you can repair the damage, especially if you acted out in front of others.
- Do not joke to “lighten” things up. A sincere apology requires seriousness and respect for the other person and a humorous comment adds insult upon someone you have already injured.
- The word “but” erases everything that is said before it, such as, “I’m sorry I was rude to your mother last night but ….” Stop! End the sentence. The word “but” adds excuses to your apology.
- No cheap shots allowed when you are making an apology. For example, telling someone that you are sorry they are offended is basically the same thing as telling them that it is their problem – not yours. Take responsibility – use “I” statements for your side of the street, “I’m sorry I said mean things about your mother. I was wrong and I’m sorry.”
The bible is filled with references on making a good apology. A favorite one is from Matthew 5:23-24:
“Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar,
and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,
leave your offering there before the altar and go;
first be reconciled to them,
and then come and present your offering.
Learning the art to apologize sincerely is essential to develop healthy and meaningful relationships in our lives.
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