How to apologise with sincerity

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In every relationship there will be times when you argue and disagree. When you are hurt, upset or afraid you may say or do things that are damaging to the relationship. . Being the one who stops an argument and apologises is hard but sometimes necessary if you want your partnership to become intimate and trusting.

An apology is only beneficial to a relationship if it’s given with sincerity so it’s important to take a bit of time to reflect before apologising. Here are some questions to consider before you apologise.

Do you believe you did something wrong?

If you don’t then your apology isn’t going to be sincere. You may still hold the same views or opinions about a subject while acknowledging that you handled it badly or were out of order in the way you behaved.

What specifically are you apologising for?

It’s really important that you know exactly what you’re apologising for before you attempt it and you need to state what it is when you apologise. If you’re having a debate about something and you lost your temper and started shouting you might say something like ‘I’m sorry for shouting at you.’

Are you prepared to take full responsibility for your part?

Until you are ready to take full responsibility (especially the person you are apologising to) you won’t be able to give a sincere

When an apology is followed by the word ‘but’ you’re not apologising because the ‘but’ discounts whatever was said before. Using the word ‘if’ can also undermine the sincerity of an apology e.g. ‘I’m sorry ‘if’ you were upset by my shouting’ implies that there may be some doubt as to whether your shouting was wrong and invalidates the other person’s feelings. When you apologise ensure you’re clear in your language and show that you understand and appreciate their hurt feelings.

Can you explain your actions?

An explanation is different from an excuse. There may be underlying problems which are affecting your behaviour or treatment of your partner which you need to get out in the open and be honest about.

Offering an explanation, even a really good one, may not dampen the other person’s hurt and anger. If you’re only offering an explanation in the hope that it will then you’re trying to manipulate their feelings and the apology is insincere.

Are you asking for forgiveness?

If you are, tell the other person why it is important to you not to lose them. Ask openly if they can forgive you and state what action you’ll take to ensure you don’t make the same mistake again. Don’t assume forgiveness is your right because you’re apologising, they may need time to heal before they can forgive you.

If your apology isn’t accepted immediately don’t say “I said I was sorry what more do you want?” this implies that you were only apologising with the expectation that you would be immediately forgiven.

Are you prepared to change?

A sincere apology should be followed by some acknowledgement of what you could do differently in the future and also a willingness to make amends if possible. If you lost your temper and shouted because you’d had a really tough day at work,  offer an explanation and then promise that to ensure it doesn’t happen again you will let your partner know when you’ve had a rough day and avoid talking about difficult subjects.

Stick to your word. You must carry out your promise in order for the apology to be sincere and complete or it loses its meaning and trust will be lost.

An apology is the superglue of life.  It can repair just about anything. 

Lynn Johnston


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