I’ve had to apologize a lot in my days. Ask Tommy. I can be very blunt, wear my emotions on my sleeve, and enjoy confrontation…but in a good way! I truly seek to make amends; taking full responsibility for my faults and then looking for ways to avoid those mistakes again.
Apologizing is hard though and if you’re going to make the effort to do it, then make sure it’s sincere.
Five Mistakes To Avoid When Apologizing
1. Playing the Victim
This is when you apologize, but you take this really defeated self-pity approach.
This is actually masking arrogance because though you may know you’re wrong, you’re simply apologizing to play the victim and guilt the other party into feeling bad. The person who plays the victim will also sometimes go into “absolutes” by saying things such as “I’ll make sure never to cook again” or “From now on, you always get to choose where we eat”. If there’s one principle we learned early on in our marriage, you should never use always or never.
2. #SorryNotSorry Apologizing
Has anyone ever told you “I’m sorry you feel that way”? If so, that’s not a real apology because there is absolutely no ownership for any wrongdoing. This is simply “apologizing” but without any acknowledgment about anything on their end. It’s simply saying “I feel sorry for you that you’re mad/upset/hurt”
I’m not sure how the conversation could effectively move forward with a comment like that.
3. Apologizing Without An Action Plan or Accountability
For an apology to be sincere and believable, there needs to be some sort of follow-through in either a form of an action plan or some other form of accountability. Let’s say you steal money from someone and you say “Sorry I stole your money, will you forgive me?”. It’s fairly empty words unless it’s followed by “I’ll make sure to pay you back and not do it again” or something to that effect.
Find a way to make amends and/or have something in place (accountability) to prevent it from happening again.
4. Making Excuses
This again is an “apology” but lacks the ownership when the apologizer starts to make excuses. “I’m sorry I knocked you down, but if you weren’t standing in my way then it wouldn’t have happened.”
“I’m sorry I’m late to this super important meeting, I caught every red light” instead you might say “I’m sorry I’m late, I’ll make sure to give myself more buffer for the drive next time.”
A great statement to follow the initial sorry might be “I have no excuse” or “My actions are inexcusable”. This shows true repentance.
5. Bringing Up Past Issues
I think sometimes when we apologize we feel really defeated and therefore we bring up past mistakes from the other party to “level the playing field” so to speak. This is a big no-no. (waves index finger back and forth)
What this does is redirects the focus from the issue at hand, which might still be unsolved at this point, and turns it back on the other person. It always opens pandora’s box and they may shoot back with another issue. Trust me, this is not a can of worms that should be opened.
If past issues still are unsettled and causing you hurt, pick another time to solve them.
The Type of Apology Everyone Wants to Hear
If you’re guilty of any of these (raises my hand for all of them) then it may be helpful to learn some better ways to apologize that will actually work towards solving the issue and deepening the relationship.
- Acknowledge that what you did/said caused hurt.
- Apologize and be specific to what you’re apologizing for- express sincere remorse.
- Create a follow-through or set some accountability in place.
- Shut up.
I can promise you that there will come a time in any close relationship that you will have to apologize. Practice sincere apologies, avoid these blunders, and reap restored relationships.