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Saying 'sorry' doesn't have to be hard

A sincere apology does a world of good for both the giver and the receiver. It shows you regret the hurt or pain you caused, whether that’s inadvertently or on purpose, and it signals your desire to restore the relationship to a healthy balance.

Without apologizing, authenticity cannot be achieved because authenticity requires you to appropriately express your feelings and needs.  

Why apologizing is good for you and others

1. Provides a constructive outlet for remorse. Extending an apology helps you take responsibility for your actions and hold yourself accountable for them. This is especially true if you back up your words with positive actions to prevent it happening again. Holding on to remorse can lead to internalized anger which over time can impact your sense of self-worth.  


2. Improves your future conduct. By reflecting on your actions and sharing your experience with another person, you create an experience which encompasses your senses and as a result is more memorable. This will help you to stay motivated to do better the next time you're in a similar situation. When you strive to improve your future behavior, you‘re making amends as well as apologizing.


3. Decreases the harm you may have caused. For someone who feels wronged, by hearing an apology it is likely to lessen the impact. It is a natural reaction: when we know that someone feels sorry for their negative effects on us because they value us and care about how we feel, we enjoy significant relief and a reduction in hurt and anger. Studies show that receiving an apology also helps people feel less threatened.


4. Encourages forgiveness. Without an apology or asking for forgiveness, we cannot be forgiven. And from time to time, we all need to be forgiven. Apologies and making amends help to speed the forgiveness process along.


5. Maintains healthy relationships. Healthy relationships need conflict and resolution from time to time. Often it is the conflict that builds deeper understanding and leads to better outcomes when there are issues to resolve. Apologizing and forgiving creates an atmosphere of mutual respect, trust, and cooperation.


How to deliver a sincere apology

1. Generate remorse. Reflect on your actions and how they affected the other person. If it helps, consider what it might have been like in the other person's shoes. If the situation is emotionally charged, take time to calm down in a neutral setting. Talk with others if you need some objective input. Feel good about your courage in facing the facts head on. 


2. Express your regret. State clearly that you take full responsibility for your conduct. Acknowledge your intention and the impact your actions had on the other person. There is no need to defend your actions, that will diminish your apology. 


3. Propose a constructive remedy. Be prepared to state what you're willing to do to right the wrong. It will demonstrate that you're serious. Give the other person a chance to propose what they need so you can work together to reconcile your points of view. This turns your apology into an amends.


4. Listen to the other person. Be willing and open to however the other person decides to respond. You can feel good about your willingness to make reparations, irrespective of how things turn out.


Sometimes you'll enjoy an immediate reconciliation however this is not always the case. Be patient if the other person needs more time.


Sometimes when we apologize, we hope or expect to be met with forgiveness however that is not always going to happen. That doesn’t mean your apology was insincere although it could mean that. It's more likely that the other person isn't ready to forgive or that you do not have a shared value system and you may need to ‘agree to disagree’ on the issue.


5. Choose your time & place. The more significant the disagreement, the greater the likelihood you will need to reflect on the situation and your behavior before considering apologizing. If that is the case, choose a time when you are both able to discuss the situation without distractions. This could mean booking a time in the diary or finding a private space to openly discuss how you both feel about the situation. 


Additional Suggestions

  • Apologize in person. Your apology carries more weight when you make it in person than if you just text or e-mail it. So much can get lost or mis-interpreted online. Face-to-face discussions are usually the most expedient way of apologizing and making amends. If you are apologizing, make every effort to use eye contact, this conveys your sincerity.


  • Apologize promptly. It's easier to untangle a knot while it's still fresh. A prompt confession can prevent resentments from building.


  • Evaluate any feelings of humiliation. Do you feel that saying you're sorry is a sign of weakness? Actually, it takes great courage and wisdom to face unpleasant realities and communicate openly. Rejoice in the knowledge that you're making life better for you and those you care about.


  • Know when you need help. If you find yourself apologizing for the same thing over and over, it may be a sign that you need help to make lasting changes. Engaging the support of someone you trust or a professional in the area, could help you transform so that it is no longer something you need to apologize for.


Understanding the importance of forgiveness can help you resolve conflicts and lead a more fulfilling life. Use these techniques to make your apologies more sincere and effective.

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