Many of us think that if we need to apologize it must mean we’ve done something bad, and if we’ve done something bad, then maybe that means we are bad. But that is not the case. It is brave to apologize. Apologizing is a way to honor someone else’s feelings and needs separate from our own.
So what keeps us from apologizing?
We don’t want to be seen as wrong. We worry that saying we’re sorry will make us look weird or stupid. We worry that apologizing is admitting to a poor choice, and that that poor choice will reflect poorly on our overall character.
Our ego gets in the way. We have a hard time owning mistakes. We find ourselves more concerned with being right than preserving and caring for our relationships.
We have difficulty recognizing our impact. We can be blind to the ways in which our words and actions affect people. It is a kind of protective denial that shields us from the harm we cause.
We don’t have to think that we’ve done anything wrong to harm people. We may have the best intentions and still cause harm. It may be the way we said something, or the timing of a particular action that causes the hurt. We have to own that.
All that being said, don’t force an apology. An apology needs to come from a sincere and genuine place, even with children. We shouldn’t tell them “You need to apologize,” because then we’re teaching them how to deliver an inauthentic apology. We want genuine apologies that come from a place of empathy and understanding.
When we are ready to deliver an authentic apology we do that by saying, “I apologize for _____.” We don’t apologize for how someone felt. We don’t apologize by telling them they misunderstood. We can’t tell people how to feel about what was done to them. We don’t talk to people about what our intentions were.
We don’t qualify the apology or place conditions around it. We say, “I am sorry for _____.” Full stop. And to truly apologize, in addition to saying these words, we need to correct our behavior moving forward.
Authentic apologies are a really beautiful way to restore and connect with people.
Reflect on a situation where you were resistant to deliver an apology and consider these questions:
Is it possible you were wrong?
Is it possible that the delivery of what you said was harmful?
Is it possible that you hurt this person’s feelings?
Did something in this newsletter speak to you? Leave a comment and let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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