Do you really know how to apologize?
In some cases, saying sorry isn’t enough. Instead of smoothing things over and making the situation better, it just leads to an even bigger explosion and mess. Often, we just put our hands on our hair and wonder why the other person doesn’t seem to appreciate what we’re doing.
Why do other people always have to see what you’re saying in the worst light?
Well, it might not be their fault.
It’s possible that your apology isn’t coming over as sincere or as well-meaning as you intend it to be. That’s because many of us make mistakes when we apologize. We say and do things that don’t help what we’re doing.
For that reason, here’s a helpful guide on how to apologize.
Including the word ‘but’
In Game of Thrones, they compared everything before the word ‘but’ to horse manure. Well, that’s true, particularly when you’re apologizing.
If you say “I’m sorry, but it’s your fault, too”, then what your audience will hear isn’t the “I’m sorry” but the “it’s your fault” instead.
The best advice when you apologize is to focus on actually apologizing and leave the quibbling for later. If you’re finding it hard, just remember this: Apologies wouldn’t mean much if they were easy.
The golden rule
Do you know what the norm of reciprocity is?
It’s the one where we do unto others what they have done unto us.
For example, if you go to somebody’s house and he gave you a bottle of wine, you should do the same. If someone sent you a postcard or messaged you on your birthday, then you should do the same thing.
Often, if you want an apology to run smoothly, you should apply the same idea.
You apologize and the other person returns the apology. If you don’t do that, then things can easily get out of hand. The person who apologized first will feel that he put himself out there only to be ignored.
You’re not sincere
Apologies only work if you mean them. Often, people will say ‘I’m sorry’ and then insist that it’s not really their fault.
That’s not an apology. That’s just saying ‘I’m sorry’ before complaining.
Focus on being sincere and taking responsibility for your actions. Later on, when you’ve repaired the breach in your relationship, you’ll have time to deal with the unfairness of the world.
You’re not recognizing the other person’s feelings
Yes, it’s you that’s apologizing. All the same, that doesn’t mean it’s all about you.
To apologize effectively, you need to not just accept responsibility for what you’ve done, but also take the other person’s feelings into account.
Things like ‘I can only imagine how this makes you feel’ or ‘I understand that this wasn’t nice for you’ will demonstrate that you’re considering the other person’s feelings. It will show that you’re capable of showing empathy which can really help soothe the other person’s anger.
You’re hurrying through
Rushing through the apology and not leaving enough time for the other person to decide if the apology has satisfied him creates a bigger problem. He can end up feeling like he’s been cheated, leading to all sorts of resentment.
So, how to apologize?
Say ‘I’m sorry’ and then give the other person enough time to respond. Practice active listening and pay close attention to what he’s going to say.
When you do this, you’ll be able to understand and respond to the actual issues you’re dealing with. It will encourage the other person to accept your apology and see it as sincere.
See Also: 5 Ways to Say Sorry
Apologizing is a fact of life. We all screw up. Nobody is perfect. Heck, sometimes it is even a good idea to apologize when we’ve done nothing wrong.
For example, a very useful apology when you’ve done nothing wrong but the other person is still angry is to say ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’. This shows empathy and can help mollify another person’s anger. It puts you closer to fixing a problem and moving on from it.