I'm Sorry: The Best Apology

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I’m Sorry: The Best Apology. How did you learn to apologize? For most of us, we learn the basics of apology as children. If you are around small children, you will inevitably hear adults encouraging a child to say “sorry” after hurting another child. This is good modeling and is certainly part of how we need to teach children, but it’s not enough once we reach adulthood. If we don't learn additional skills of apology it is going to cause problems. As children, we are taught that saying the words is often enough. We begin to believe that somehow by uttering the word “Sorry” all should go back to neutral. “I’m sorry” is supposed to make it all better, but we miss out on the most important part of a sincere apology.

Apologizing can be tough, especially when I am SURE that my perspective is right. If you are like me there is a huge temptation to justify, or explain my intention. How many times have I been guilty of: “I’m sorry, but….”. Even sincere apology with an added justification can often do more harm than repair. The article below explains it this way: “When ‘but’ is tagged on to an apology….it’s an excuse that counters the sincerity of the original message. The best apologies are short and don’t include explanations that can undo them.” (Brody, 2017) Are you guilty of the following pseudo apologies? “I’m sorry you feel that way”…. “I said I’m sorry so now you need to forgive me” or perhaps most commonly “I’m sorry, BUT……” Can you relate?

When we give in to the need to justify, we are acting in a self-protective way, and not able to hear the other’s experience. Through defending actions by adding an explanation or excuse we miss the opportunity to respond to the hurt the other person experienced. Apology does not mean that you need to agree with their perspective; an apology needs to be about recognizing the hurt and the part I played in the situation. Sincere apology without justifying or defending is a lot more vulnerable; it leaves the potential for the situation to not be resolved. In fact, it may mean that the relationship is tender for a while, or that the relationship is forever changed, but it is the only way for a relationship to have the opportunity to begin to rebuild in a healthy way. Apology without justification takes humility, and moves the focus from an argument about whose actions were right or wrong, and turns the focus to addressing the hurt. Interested in reading more about apology? Check out this link: The right way to say I'm sorry   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/30/well/mind/the-right-way-to-say-im-sorry.html?smid=tw-nythealth&smtyp=cur&_r=1