The Art of Giving and Accepting Sincere Apologies

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In its most basic expression – a simple, yet sincere apology satisfies many situations. No matter how effective your communication skills, how sensitive you may be, or how compatible or in love you might be with your spouse, sooner or later you are bound to do something that will either hurt or embarrass your partner. How then do you know when you have wronged your partner and to sincerely apologize?

An apology need only be made for something that in retrospect the giver sincerely intends not to repeat. It means taking responsibility for something that you genuinely feel remorse over and intend not to repeat. A sincere apology has the power to heal a world of hurts. It is a magic wand that can melt the hurt and restore your relationship. Saying “I am sorry” and meaning it is a miraculous healing tool.

  • Nobody is perfect and we are all bound to make mistakes, fail occasionally and sometimes even harm other people. It is necessary to understand that while we are capable of making changes in our behavior, we have very limited power to change the behavior of others, even our lover. This understanding of your limitations and capabilities, and acceptance of the fact that you can make mistakes, makes it easier for you to take things less personally and feel encouraged to apologize when you feel you have wronged someone.

    Offences, the Bible says, must surely come. As we get more intimate in our relationships, we tend to open our hearts to our partner and therefore we become more vulnerable. Things that were once considered inconsequential assume more weight and any unconscious or insensitive behavior hurts more deeply. What do you do when they come?

    An apology is a two-way thing – giving and receiving. If you are the one that was hurt, you can keep a list of the offences and literally carry them about with you or you can find it in your heart to sincerely forgive the offender. However, when you need to forgive someone, there is no guarantee that the individual will apologize or do anything to improve the situation.

    When offended, you should be willing to accept an apology when tendered. Avoid bringing up past wrongs the person might have committed as doing so might re-open the argument or even escalate it. This could also make the person giving the apology reluctant to do so next time.

    Saying “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings”, is not apologizing rather you say “I’m sorry for hurting your feeling”. If you apologize, really mean it. What’s more, whether you did it unintentionally or not is not the issue but the fact that your action was unkind enough to hurt your partner. Your therefore need to wholeheartedly apologize to your partner because he/she feels hurt. The more you put off apologizing, the stronger the feelings grow. Time only intensifies feelings but diminishes the urgency of the impulse.

    It is also wrong to say that you are not going to talk to partner unless they tender an apology for something they have said or done. Extracting a forced apology or admission of guilt from anyone will only make them become resentful. While you may feel temporarily victorious, this action will silently undermine your relationship.

    The most difficult time to apologize is when you believe that you have not done anything wrong. Already fragile situations are often escalated when someone is compelled to say sorry just to pacify the aggrieved person in spite of feeling that their actions were tight. At such times, it will be best to try and listen open-heartedly to see the other person’s perspective, and then it will be easier for you to summon the courage to apologize.

  • However, apologizing when you feel you have not done anything wrong does not mean that you should condone things that your partner may be doing that do not work with you. In you feel that you have not done anything wrong but your partner is unhappy with you over it, you can show him/her empathic understanding by saying that “You are sorry for how he/she feels” but that you are not sorry for the issue under consideration. This goes to show that while you stand your ground, you still care about how they feel.

    Saying you are sorry – and meaning it – only hurts your ego. However within it lies the potential to rebuild the bridge between you and that person. When you hurt others, rather than mentally replaying the hurt, look for ways to apologize, make amends and if necessary retrospectively make behavioral changes in order not to make the same mistakes again.

    Tuesday, March 29th, 2011 Conflicts and Breakups