By Sarah Gyampoh, LMSW
We’ve all been there before…something we said or did affected someone we care about. And we realize that it is our responsibility to apologize to them and make things right. Whether or not your intention was to hurt the other person, the fact they feel hurt is enough of a reason for you to acknowledge their feelings and give them the apology they deserve.
Apologizing benefits both you and the other person. Someone who has been harmed feels emotional healing when they are acknowledged by our apology. We all want to know that we matter and that our feelings matter. When we take responsibility for our actions, we can free ourselves from carrying the guilt of knowing we hurt someone. Admitting we were wrong and working past our resistance to apologizing allows us to develop a deep sense of self-respect.
By apologizing when needed, we remain emotionally connected to our friends and loved ones. Knowing we have wronged someone may cause us to distance ourselves from that person, but once we have apologized, we feel free to reestablish the intimacy of the relationship.
Your apology should be heartfelt and sincere.
No one wants to be the recipient of a forced or meaningless apology. If it is not sincere, wait to acknowledge it until you mean it. Without your sincerity, it doesn’t hold much weight and the other person may feel even more disrespected, which is obviously not the goal.
A meaningful apology communicates the three R’s: regret, responsibility, and remedy.
Regret: Statement of regret for having caused the hurt or damage
While your intention may not have been to cause harm, you recognize that something you did hurt this person. Remember you are not standing in someone else’s shoes, so it is not your place to determine what hurt them.
For example: I’m sorry I hurt your feelings when I got impatient with you. It was not my intention to make you feel badly but I can see how it impacted you.
Responsibility: an acceptance of responsibility for your actions
This means not blaming anyone else and not making excuses for what you did. You own up to your part of the matter, without harboring any feelings of blame.
For example: I shouldn’t have yelled at you. I was feeling stressed out and I took it out on you. You didn’t do anything to deserve that.
Remedy: a statement of willingness to remedy the situation
While you can’t undo the past, you can repair the harm you caused. Therefore, a meaningful apology includes a plan for how to avoid the same thing from occurring again.
For example: Next time I feel stressed out, I will be sure to take a few deep breaths so I can avoid losing my temper with you and engage in a calm, kind, and safe manner.
Next time you owe someone an apology, be sure to offer it straight from your heart.
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