3 Words That Will Change Your Life

“A stiff apology is a second insult… The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.”     Gilbert K. Chesterton

“I have always believed that life is too short for rows and disagreements. Even if I think I’m right, I would prefer to apologize and remain friends rather than win and be an enemy.” ~ Maeve Binchy

Forgiveness has been a hot topic for a while now but not much is said about apologies. Learning to properly say, “I am sorry” will create tremendous positive change in your life and the lives of those around you. Here is a 3-step practice for effective apologies:

  1. Be Accountable for Your Actions

When you have hurt someone take 100% responsibility for your actions. Basically, woman up! This is the first place your apologies go off the rails. You say your sorry quickly followed by your reasons or intentions. You try to apologize by justifying or getting yourself off the hook. OK you had reasons for what you did: so what? Did those reasons stop the hurt from happening in the first place? No? Then they don’t belong in this conversation. Oh, and that explanation of why you had good intentions but things just feel apart? Yeah, that only serves to try and get you off the emotional hook because you feel uncomfortable owning 100% of the fallout.

So your first step is to just say, “I’m sorry for {the thing you did that hurt this person}”. Nothing more. Nothing less. This first step is crucial to making the whole process work because if you gunk it up, them everything that follows falls apart.

  1. Recognize and Validate the Other Person’s Feelings

The thing I notice with people who have trouble apologizing effectively is they don’t seem to understand the purpose of their apology. So here it is, please pay attention this might clear some things up for you: the purpose of your apology is to say you are sorry for hurting someone. Did you get that? That’s all there is; too many people think apologies are for getting to who’s right and who’s wrong. Or maybe they are a process of discovering right or wrong. None of that is accurate. You are only apologizing for the hurt you caused. Right and wrong do not belong here.

So step two is to validate the other person’s feelings. Say, “I can imagine my actions made you feel {put in how you imagine they feel by your actions}.” Then most important – ask if that’s how they felt! Say, “Did I get that correct?” If you did then great, if not then restate it with the correct emotions. Then finish this step by asking, “Is there more?” You want to cover all the hurt your actions caused. Might as well clean up the whole mess at once.

  1. Have a Plan so the Same Problem Won’t Happen Again

Step three is the kicker because you have to take that 100% responsibility thing all the way here. After you’ve said you were sorry and after you acknowledged the hurt you caused, now you must end with a sincere plan for not going down that road again.

This is where it can get tricky; saying, “If you didn’t give me that look then I wouldn’t have reacted that way” is not a sincere plan. Remember you are taking 100% of responsibility for your actions, which means even if the other person gave you a look that triggered you.

So the way to wrap up an effective apology is to say, “Next time I will take a breath when I feel my blood pressure rising and calm down a bit before speaking”. That’s a statement that will lead you toward more connection, and that’s the result you want from your apology.

“I’m an honorable human being. I know what to do and what not to do, and if I’m wrong, I always apologize. I’m a big enough man to do that.” ~ Action Bronson

October’s joy-full lesson is no one is perfect. Mistakes happen. You say or do something that hurts another. The way back to connection is through an effective apology. One that honor’s their feelings and allows you to sincerely take responsibility for your part. Discover the joy that is concealed in “I am sorry”.

 

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