4 Steps for a Genuine Apology

I don’t know about you but my relationships have been a little challenged since we have all been spending more time at home! Being able to apologize effectively has come in handy these past few weeks! When we receive a genuine apology we are much more likely to forgive and move on. But when that apology doesn’t feel sincere it almost makes the disagreement worse.

Right now we are all dealing with enormous amounts of uncertainty and this leads to more stress and anxiety than we know what to do with. All of this stress and anxiety can be difficult on our relationships. Some of us struggle with apologizing and forgiving.

  • How would you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 on your ability to apologize?
  • How would you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 on your willingness to forgive?

Unfortunately, we will hurt those that we love and our loved ones will hurt us. It is just a part of being human. These disagreements and disconnections are unavoidable, it’s the repair that matters the most. I’m going to cover four important steps to genuinely apologize that will help you with that repair.

1. Express remorse. If you don’t feel sorry for your part in what happened, it’s NOT time to apologize. There is no point in saying you are sorry, if you don’t mean it. Our brains are so highly tuned to detecting threat that your partner will detect insincerity in a split second. Don’t do it until you are ready. You have to FEEL sorry when you say “I’m sorry”.

2. Admit the negative impact. Saying you’re sorry is the first part, but you have to specify WHAT you are sorry for. “I’m sorry you are upset, or I’m sorry you feel this way” doesn’t cut it. Think about the situation; what part can you take responsibility for.  Think about the negative impact your behavior had on the other person. “I’m sorry I didn’t call you when I said I would. I can see how that affected you. You were worried about me”.

3. Repair. This is the part where you want to make amends. A genuine apology includes making space for learning about each other. You might say this, “I’d like to make it up to you?” or “I understand how important this is to you”. Repair is about strengthening the relationship and understanding one another’s needs.

4. Share what you will do differently next time. If your partner is upset with you for not calling to say you were running late. You acknowledge your part and take responsibility, now you want to talk about what you’re willing to do next time this happens. “Next time I’ll call you when I leave the office to let you know I’m running late”.  Sometimes asking the question: “what could we do differently next time” can prompt deeper discussion about the needs of each partner.

Usually disconnections are more complex than the example of running late. One person often gets triggered and shuts down and then the other one gets trigged from that response, there is a critical tone or the dreaded silence…and then away we go into the spiral of disconnection. Regardless of the degree of complexity, the steps to a genuine apology still apply. The best place to start is when you can look at the situation objectively and start to take some responsibility for your part. When you start from this place your partner will most likely feel your attempt to repair and come forward to join you in repairing the disconnection.

Take good care of yourselves during this time. I know it is extremely challenging. Let me know if I can help. You can reach me at 817-307-8725 or DrLeeLeGrice.com.  

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