Sorry is the hardest word.
Updated: Sep 25, 2020
We are human, mistakes happen and sometimes- we need to step back, and then intentionally take action to move forward. Apologies are merely an attempt to communicate to the person you’ve hurt, that you’ve considered their feelings, want to validate their experience, and feel remorse for your words or actions.
I also believe an apology, even though it's directed to someone else, is actually something you do for yourself. You are giving yourself permission to shift your energy towards something healthier and more productive. You intentionally decide to let go of things that weigh you down and focus on moving forward.
I have heard it time and time again, “I don’t need to apologize, they are ok”. No. Even if the other person is behaving normally, it is still important to own it, be intentional and then make those changes to bring you closer to the person you want to be. Trust me, apologizing is difficult, but exercising those muscles help us emotionally heal, grow, and thrive. We feel better when we start to directly “own our stuff” and intentionally tend to business with those we care about.
The sweet spot is the "HOW". See, apologies that accept fault matter more than apologies that merely expressed sympathy but took no responsibility. Those “non-apologies” are annoying, intensify the hurt, can even make the other person want to seek revenge. Non-apologies feel like “I’m so sorry that yooooou felt I was wrong when I ignored you and was sarcastic”. Nice right? Not so much.
If you’re not sorry, then don’t apologize. Seriously. Don’t. Your insincerity will show, and it will further damage the relationship. Fake apologies are insulting, condescending, patronizing and just do not work. It’s better to wait until you are ready. And I don’t just mean ready to apologize, but also ready to own everything about your role in the situation and commit to not make the mistake again. Own your stuff.
A good apology requires you to clearly articulate what YOU did wrong so the receiver knows you both are on the same page. This is really hard to do, but it can make or break an apology. Remember you have to own it. Can we just stop and notice how hard it is to be a human?
Own your stuff.
Be specific in what you said or how you behaved. Details matter. You cannot go into this and say, ‘I’m sorry I messed up". That is generic. Rather, “I’m sorry I didn't put my phone down when you were upset about xxxx; I am sorry if my actions made you feel unimportant”. It may feel painful to name what you did, but if you leave it out, it leaves open the possibility that you have any reservations. You also can not go into an apology thinking they “may” forgive you. What they choose to do or not do is not part of the equation. Your focus is owning your stuff (are you hearing the theme here?!). You cannot expect it to go well if you try to make the person feel obligated to “forgive you”. If the other person “hears” you, they will let you know. To be clear, stay focused on the goals and the purpose: Own your stuff.
When you begin to think about what you want to say, you must "Edit the Buts". Anytime you use the word "but"- you really are not owning it. "Buts" leave a door wide open to provide excuses that deflect from your goal and purpose. Notice that it is uncomfortable and then gently tell yourself, “Self, I am uncomfortable! I should be, I will be more comfortable once I own my stuff.”
Hope this helps!