How to apologize and mean it

Saying sorry is tough. Nobody likes to admit when they are wrong, however some of us do better at it than others. I already talked to you about how to fight like a pro – now we talk about how to handle when you have screwed up.

First thing is first – don’t apologize if you don’t know what you are apologizing for. We all know that person (maybe you are that person) who apologizes for everything. Sorries are splattered throughout their conversations like “uhms” and “likes”. In session with these folks, I will often stop them and ask them what they are sorry for. They look at me like I have two heads but usually can’t come up with what they are sorry for. I totally copy a line I heard from someone else (maybe some other therapist or teacher) and tell them they do not have to apologize for existing, which usually gets a laugh, but then starts a good conversation about how and when to apologize.

The solution here is making sure that you are prefacing your “sorry” with the reason why you are sorry (“i interrupted you – i am sorry”) or you lead out with your apology stating what you are sorry for (“I am sorry for interrupting you). Sounds obvious right? Not so much. It will definitely help you to keep those sorries focused and clear though.

Next up don’t say but after you apologize. It negates everything that came before it. For example, I am sorry that I yelled at you but you really need to change the way you act.

Uhm, what?

See?! It takes away from your apology. Adding the but after an apology makes your apology sound a smidge defensive as well as takes the responsibility away from you more.

Now I don’t feel like I need to say this but what the heck – don’t be sarcastic.  It’s passive aggressive and definitely not genuine. It’s a surefire way to get the person that you are apologizing to either shut down or get mad. Wait until you can apologize and have it be genuine – it will go a lot farther than sarcasm.

If you are wondering what makes apologizing so tough for some – I have a thought. I think that apologizing is very difficult for those of us who are insecure. Its admitting that we are wrong; it’s being vulnerable to what we perceive as an attack and our fragile self confidence and self worth can’t take it. So we hold our grudge ridden ground and either wait for the conflict to blow over or for the other person to “give in”.

Don’t be afraid to admit when you are wrong. Instead of what you fear happening, potentially rejection of some sort, the opposite usually does. The person you are apologizing to feels validated, feels appreciated, and in turn may feel closer to you.

I think it feels good to apologize. I mean, its not always easy, but the good stuff rarely is.


Photo by Ester Marie Doysabas on Unsplash


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