Do you ever have moments when someone tries to apologize to you, but their apology just doesn’t seem to heal you?
Or worse… it has made the problem even more complicated.
Or do you have had moments when you try to apologize to someone, but it didn’t seem to connect with the person?
Or worse… it has made them even more defensive and angrier towards you?
Or do you have those times when you sincerely apologize to someone and came clean to them despite all the fear and possibility of losing them, but for some reason, things fell into the right places…
And what’s more? It has built a stronger bond not just with them but you felt a great sense of self-worth as well.
No one is perfect. People stray and most of the time it’s the people closest to us who we hurt the most for things we’ve said and done wrong, so asking for an apology and expressing remorse is part of us as human beings and is important in any kind of relationships.
And knowing the proper way of doing it is just as important, even more important.
why knowing the proper way of apologizing is even more important
Words do matter.
Sometimes, not knowing how to verbally express your thoughts the better way can easily create possible conflicts, and some people keep that cycle.
And this happens mostly in expressing remorse, especially when you’re overwhelmed with the emotions.
But if you practice the habit of communicating your thoughts the proper way will keep your relationships fulfilling and happy.
We all make mistakes and hurt people, intentionally and unintentionally, and from those downfalls lies the opportunity of learning to be vulnerable, to be openly honest with yourself and the person you’ve done wrong, to accept your own imperfections, to accept responsibility of the consequences, and most importantly… to do better.
Mistakes and downfalls are opportunities for connection boost and strengthen relationships.
Not only that it will strengthen relationships, but sincere apology can also help increase your self-respect and self-worth.
Contrarily, an ineffective apology can create more harm to the person and to yourself.
It will more likely leave unresolved issues and build up or comes out of nowhere when triggered by similar events, so will cause further conflicts.
So, it is important to be aware of the difference between the two.
And the good news is, knowing the proper way to apologize is a communication skill that anyone can learn and practice.
the difference between an ineffective apology and a sincere apology
You make it about you.
The very core reason why an apology becomes ineffective is when you focus on your own feelings instead of the person you’ve done wrong.
When you focus on yourself, you would do anything to defend your own feelings.
And to defend yourself, you blame other things and people.
Sometimes, you’d even blame the victim himself/herself of your own misconduct.
When you blame other things or people, you’ll tend to justify your behavior, because justifying will minimize your mistake and will make you feel less shame and fear.
By doing these things, you send a vibe to the person that you’re making excuses, and it will likely make them feel like their feelings aren’t important to you.
An ineffective apology is when you make it about you, and not them.
“Never ruin an apology with an excuse.”― Benjamin Franklin
You make it about them.
A sincere apology is mainly for the person you’ve done wrong, not for yourself to feel better.
When you’re sincere, you empathize with the person.
You may not totally understand them, but you feel them because you care for them enough to put yourself in their shoes.
And by putting yourself in their shoes not only means feeling how the mistake has hurt them but also knowing how you could’ve reacted if you were them or if you have their personality, how they grew up, and how they cope with things.
When you’re truly sincere, you acknowledge your mistake, how you did it, and why you did it.
Then, you accept it. You accept and admit it to yourself and to the person that you’ve hurt them by doing that mistake.
You accept the fact that you could’ve done a better way or decision.
If you can acknowledge and accept it, you will be able to sincerely express it.
Sincerity is the heart of apology.
To sincerely express it means you will amend for it because you care about how they feel.
And if you care about how they feel, you’ll do anything to heal them and take responsibility for it.
When you take responsibility for it, you won’t focus on trying to let the person see you making a change.
Although it would be nice if they notice, what matters is you’ve actually made a difference with or without them knowing.
Besides, if it’s sincere, it will eventually reach them.
examples of expressing ineffective apology and sincere apology through words
When explaining further details about what happened is needed, why you did it, or why you said it, avoid using it as an excuse for your mistake.
Avoiding using these words:
✘ “if”: This will make your apology sound like you are not sure about what you’ve done or how you’ve hurt them. To make the person feel that you care how they feel is by acknowledging your mistake, why, and how you’ve done it.
✘ “but”: This can make it sound defensive and not owning your mistake. So, know when to use this. To make the person feel understood is by admitting your mistake openly.
(To truly recognize the difference, observe how every sentence makes you feel.)
✘ I’m sorry, but I didn’t mean to _____.
✘ I’m sorry if you’re hurt, I didn’t know that if_____.
✘ I’m sorry, but it was because they _____.
✘ I’m sorry if I lied to you, but you made me feel _____.
✔ I’m sorry for lying to you about the _____, you don’t deserve it.
✔ I’m sorry that I _____ without telling you, I should have asked you first how it would make you feel.
✔ I know I hurt your feelings when I _____. I feel bad for treating you like that. I hope you forgive me.
✔ I did it because _____. And there’s no excuse, it was wrong. I’m sorry.
Too much apology is also not effective. Sometimes it can be tempting to say “sorry” many times but it could annoy the person. Saying “sorry” too much can feel insincere to the person you’re apologizing for because it shows desperation for forgiveness and for your own healing instead of theirs. We all want to be forgiven by the person we’ve done wrong, but our main purpose for asking apology is for the person to feel okay and because we realized we made a mistake, owning our mistake.
Another reminder when you express your apology is to be specific. Being specific will let the person feel that you’ve acknowledged and you own your mistake.
Of course, expressing remorse sincerely doesn’t only mean communication through words, but also through actions. You don’t want to repeat the same mistake. Otherwise, you weren’t being real.
Also, take note that some things take time to heal, some things can’t be resolved right away. Everyone is different. You may have hurt someone who has a past trauma that has been triggered by the mistake you made. And everyone has different ways of coping and healing.
Again, what’s important is you were able to start the process of healing by being sincere and genuine.
Ooops, and by the way …
Please be reminded that some tips may or may not work for you, even if it did or didn’t work on other people.
You are unique, so choose what works best for you.
If these tips work for you, which I believe it does to most people, then take it with you and practice it.
These are self-study and from my own personal experiences that I encountered with the people in my life (I wouldn’t truly learn without them).
And I’m still learning and practicing them up until now, continuously.
When was the last time you asked for an apology?
When was the last time someone asked for your apology?
I’ll be happy to know your stories in the comments below.
I hope this gave value to you and I wish you best in all your relationships.