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Learn How to Apologize – Your Relationships Will Improve

by The Kay Way on February 17, 2010

in Uncategorized

I find it quite fascinating that the majority of people I have encountered over my lifetime either don’t apologize or do it so badly (which is almost worse).  Apologizing is incredibly powerful if done properly and for the right reasons.  The husband who is “sorry” in a churlish tone to try and move on from a unpleasant conversation with their mate certainly does not qualify as an apology.  Or as someone in my past life was apt to do was to apologize and in the same breath tell me it was my fault he did it.  I never quite understood that one.  I’m sure you will be able to furnish me some really good examples of what I refer to as the “no-apology apology”.

I’ll start by giving you my take on how to apologize properly and when it is appropriate and not appropriate.  I currently have a wonderful person in my life who apologizes for everything; actually she uses it more as an expression.  I’m trying to break her of this habit, wish me luck!  Apologize when you recognize you are wrong and it is causing conflict with another person or you’ve hurt someone’s feelings.  Apologize without qualifications, as soon as you qualify it with a “but…” you wipe out the goodness.  Here are examples of bad and good ways to apologize.

Bad - I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, I‘m so pressured at work. (you’re  blaming work and not taking responsibility)

Good - I’m sorry I hurt your feelings (simple, sincere - if you really did something bad you may have to add “Please forgive me”.

Taking responsibility when we hurt each other (intentionally or unintentionally) goes a long way to harmonize our interactions and build trust.  I used to think that if you didn’t mean to hurt someone’s feelings you don’t need to apologize, I have since learned this is not so.  You don’t need to apologize for the bad intention, you can apologize for how it made the person feel.

We all walk around with our emotional baggage we’ve built up over the years.  If yours is weighing heavily on you and interfering with your life, I hope you will find a way to empty it and put it down.  It’s such a relief.

Then there are those who think an apology wipes out any magnitude of sins.  An apology can only do so much.  Once a young child I know made a serious mistake and he apologized sincerely.  I told him that I was glad he apologized however it did not erase what he did.  I told him that if someone drives their car over someone’s foot and crushes it and apologizes, that the foot is still crushed.

I first became interested in the subject of how people apologize because my Father did not.  Actually in my lifetime he apologized either twice or three times.  This was not a trait I admired.  I vowed that I would be someone who could admit my mistakes especially with my children.  I always apologize to them when I blow it.  You know the day you come home, you had a crappy day at work and then you walk in and your teenagers have left dirty dishes all over the living room.   Then you get so mad at them you would think they had murdered someone in cold blood.  The punishment did not fit the crime.  It was time to apologize.  Actually I feel much better after I apologize.  I find it cleansing.

Men seem to have a harder time apologizing.  Some cultures teach that to admit your mistake is to be perceived as weak and lacking leadership.  I believe that to recognize your faults, take responsibility and to learn from your mistakes is the definition of strength.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Jen 02.18.10 at 6:13 am

My parents always made me accept responsibility for my actions; and apologize for any misdeeds. I am doing the same with my daughter. One thing I’ve noticed working in the school system (aside from the fact that nobody seems to be teaching their kids to say they’re sorry anymore) is that it is just as important to teach kids how to accept an apology as it is to make one. My husband, unfortunately, was never taught either one and that makes it pretty rough on the rest of us (we’re working on him though ;o)

thekayway 02.18.10 at 7:56 pm

Jen, there seems to be two camps. Either you apologize or you wouldn’t even consider it. My adorable husband has a hard time but he eventually comes around after I show him the error of his ways. His Dad was a high ranking police officer and never even considered that he could be wrong so why would he have to apologize…I hope your husband comes around. All kidding aside it is hard if you weren’t taught. Thanks for sharing.

DorothyL 02.18.10 at 10:49 pm

It is never a bad thing to use kind words of sorrow when the end result will be positive. People tend to want to play this blame game which never mends fences…it only causes the bonding to weaken.

When in love …use love as your reasoning tool when things feel like they are just not balanced :)

Joanne Olivieri 02.19.10 at 12:37 pm

What I’ve learned is that when it is easy to apologize it is not sincere. When people apologize while they are smiling they may as well not apologize at all. I was taught at a very early age to apologize for my mistakes and I always do.

thekayway 02.19.10 at 6:15 pm

Joanne, there is nothing worse than an insincere apology, that’s totally bogus. Obviously you were brought up right. Goes to show that what people learn as children sticks.

Jason 02.21.10 at 7:54 pm

Hmm, this is a tricky one, Kay. First of all, welcome back and we hope you’re feeling great.

The thing is, I think apologies can be very significant if they are not often given. What I mean to say is that a real apology should have some significance, weight behind it. It’s meaningless if you keep loosing your cool (for instance) and throw out a “Ahhm sorry”. Usually the problem is the approach, not the message in an apology gone wrong.

A person might genuinely have some feelings about an issue, or feel wronged or offended by a situation. The trick is to vocalize; turn to your partner and say, “right now I feel like putting my fist through the wall because of xyz, I’m really mad and I don’t know how to express it.”

Doesn’t work if your partner isn’t listening, but if you are addressing a caring or considerate individual, they may just nod their head and see your point of view. At the very least, you’ve got a dialog going.

thekayway 02.22.10 at 6:31 pm

Jason, if a person is having to apologize that often, he/she definitely has a problem and the apology is not sincere, it’s just to appease the other person.

The ability to share your feelings even bad ones with someone is important and so is taking responsibility for when you blow it without makig excuses.

Do you find it easy to apologize?

thekayway 02.22.10 at 6:35 pm

DorothyL, I think that when we are willing to look at our ow behavior and take responsibility for it, our partner is more willing to do the same. The blame game never works and leaves scars on the relationship. Always remember you are dealing with the one you’ve promised to love and cherish and of course counting to 10 doesn’t hurt.

Jason 02.24.10 at 7:00 pm

Honestly, I can safely say that all my apologies are sincere and motivated by a real willingness to be accountable for my mistakes. The issue I often have is that I am so mad at myself in these moments that I remain frustrated even when the other person has forgiven me. I have difficulty letting go of stupid mistakes that come out of being distracted or just plain rotten luck.

Thanks!

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