I felt a need to write something about this topic because I did so recently to my tattoo artist and this was something my father never taught me (even though it’s highly important and I’m guessing it’s also because he never does even when he is in the wrong). Seriously, that man still owes my siblings multiple apologies. Anyway, this also brings up another interesting aspect because my father isn’t the only person in the world who finds saying “I’m sorry” to be an insurmountable task for some reason. Here’s an article from Psychology Today which elucidates some of the reasons better than I can.
So what is an apology? An apology is an expression of remorse for something that was done or said that hurt another person. We’re all human, so it’s inevitable we’ll make mistakes, screw up, and hurt others (willingly or unwillingly) just as we are hurt by them. A sincere apology can be deeply healing and requires humility, courage, self-reflection, and rigorous self-examination in order to realize your own words and/or actions may have hurt someone else. It also requires a level of maturity. I’ll admit, I wasn’t always willing to apologize when I was younger, but as I’ve grown older and gained more life experience, I’ve become more aware of how my words and actions can have an effect on others. The inability to apologize can greatly wound all of my relationships. Being a man of my word isn’t the only aspect of myself I take pride in, knowing how to properly apologize is also necessary in order to be a real man.
Write it if you can’t say it
This is what I had to do. While I am someone who prefers apologizing in person, the thought of “You could be dead this Friday” popped in my head. While a face to face apology is always ideal, if you absolutely can’t do it, then it’s better to put it out in the universe then not doing it at all.
Admit you were wrong
A vague apology will get you nowhere. You have to explain exactly what you did, that you know it’s wrong and you value the other person’s feelings. Imagine if you were the person you hurt, what would you want to hear? Describe what you did in plain English (or whatever language the other person understands) even if it is embarrassing.
Take complete responsibility
For the love of Obelisk the Tormentor, never, ever make any excuses while you’re apologizing. They instantly muddy up the sincerity of your confession. Don’t use any “buts” too. As in “I’m really sorry but….” Take full responsibility for your mistakes.
Offer to right your wrong
This isn’t always going to be possible. Sometimes it’s tangible: you break your friend’s Nintendo Switch so you complete your apology by replacing it. You should offer to try in any way you can to make up for you what you did. If a situation can be fixed and rectified then do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Move on and walk the walk
Your future actions are either going to validate or bring into question the sincerity of your apology. You should intend to work hard on fixing whatever fault led to your offense. There’s a famous Latin dictum you might have heard, “Acta non verba” which translates into English as “Deeds, not words”. At the end of the day, words will matter very little if your actions don’t match them. After you’ve apologized, stop dwelling on it. Start behaving in a way that demonstrates the sincerity of your apology.
How NOT to apologize
On the flip side, anyone’s who has ever been on the receiving end of an insincere apology knows how a fake apology can actually exacerbate an already stressful situation. Try not to do any of the following below…
“I’m sorry you felt that way”
Let’s just get this out of the way. The reason your actions made someone else feel bad is probably because of something you did. So just own it. Saying the above or anything similar is a highly unsatisfying way to make amends. It admits no wrongdoing and shifts responsibility to the other person for having feelings and emotions.
Don’t blame outside factors
I will never say something like “My father never taught me how to apologize and the fact I’m a man makes it even harder to do so”. If you read that sentence and thought it was an excuse, that’s because it completely is. When you make these type of crappy excuses, you’re suggesting you don’t take full responsibility for what you’ve done. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse“.
Don’t demand forgiveness and don’t expect it
It’s the other person’s right to forgive you or not, and you need to be aware of that. By assuming they’ll forgive you after you apologize, you undermine the sincerity of your apology.
Don’t keep apologizing
What I mean by this is by over-apologizing, it will only make your apology lose meaning the longer you dwell on the wrong you did to them. If you repeatedly apologize for the same offense over and over again, you may keep wounds open and prevent the process of healing and moving on, for everyone involved.
Offer your apology in a timely manner, and don’t leave the injured party to stew over what you’ve done. I will admit though, if it’s been months or years since the offense took place, I believe it’s better to offer your sincere apology late, than never.
And that’s my do’s and don’ts for apologizing. I hope that these guidelines help you understand what to do and not to do and how to make an effective apology. Did I leave out some points you’re aware of? Or do you have any stories about times you gave or received an apology? Let me know in the comment section. Until next time, I hope you all have a wonderful day!