The Power of Apologizing
Apologies require the highest level of human capacity—mindful self-reflection and the ability to acknowledge another person’s experience. If that isn’t hard enough, it often requires putting ourselves in a position of vulnerability—often to the person to whom we are apologizing
That’s why no one has ever woken up excited because they have to apologize to someone. Of course, it feels better in the long run, and yes, it’s the “right” thing to do, but usually we dread these moments. It’s why we so often come up with reasons not to apologize; like refusing to believe we’re wrong, excusing our behavior, blaming the other person or thinking nothing we say will make a difference.
Apologies are especially important for our relationships with young people. How you model and teach giving and accepting apologies matters. When young people see an adult genuinely apologize, they realize the power of apologies to transform relationships.
So, what is a genuine apology?
Recognize that every person has the right to his or her feelings and perspective. That means no one has the right to tell anyone else that they’re “overreacting,” “took it the wrong way” or are “overly sensitive.”
Acknowledges the hurt done to the other person.
Offers to make amends having nothing to do with being “caught” and getting into trouble.
Examples of true apologies include statements like “I’m deeply sorry I said those things” or “I was really out of line, and I didn’t think about how I embarrassed you (or the position I put you in).”
A fake apology:
Has an insincere tone of voice, sometimes accompanied by body language, like sighing and eye-rolling, to further communicate their true feelings.
Tries to make the other person feel weak for wanting the apology.
Manipulates the person apologized to, usually in order to get something the apologizer wants.
Talks about themselves and how they’ve been affected by the situation and doesn’t take responsibility for their behavior.
You can’t force someone to accept your apology. If the person you apologized to needs some time, honor that. On the other hand, it is never too late to apologize. You can always go back the next day, a week or a month later and tell the person that you are sorry.
The real goal isn’t to receive forgiveness. It is to go through the process of doing your best to make amends.
Is there someone you need to apologize to?
This originally appeared in our newsletter Communiquette.