How many of you remember this, one of the greatest (not great at all) apologies of all time? Fonzi shows how we just don’t apologize well. If we do, it takes a while to get there. If we get there it’s never easy. If it’s easy it’s rarely effective. If it’s effective it’s not permanent…it will come up again. The reason? We simply don’t do it correctly. WARNING: what I’m about to espouse upon is extremely dangerous and damaging. Do not continue to read if you do not want your life to change. Your relationships will change. Your lens from which you see people will change. Even the way you watch and observe tv and movies will be impacted. Why then do I attempt to go there? Because if it’s truly embraced between two people in a relationship it is a God send. Further, it will make you stand out as a loving, thoughtful, and emotionally attentive person. Do you have the guts to continue? If so, read on.
Ok. The topic is apologizing, saying, “I’m sorry.” Well, it is much more than saying, “I’m sorry” but that’s the topic and general category. We have already touched on a lot of this with this post. However, here we will really go over how to apologize in step by step fashion. As with a lot of things, let’s take a look at what doesn’t work and isn’t a good apology. These are all examples of actual ways we “apologize.” We are past being critical of the other person, being selfish about our own pain, or being able to just ignore the pain and/or conflict. These are poor ways we apologize.
1. Saying, “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” To me, that’s about as bad as it gets. Imagine running over your neighbors dog, looking at their tear filled eyes and saying, “Well, it wasn’t my goal to squash your pet underneath my tires.” OF COURSE YOU DIDN’T MEAN TO HURT ME. If you DID mean to hurt me we have to have a whole new conversation. I would hope that it wasn’t your goal to hurt me.
2. Saying, “Ok, I’m sorry.” Translation: “I cannot defend my point anymore and I’d like to be done with this conversation and conflict.”
3. The old, “If that bothered you well, then I”m sorry.” Translation: “You are too sensitive and my mistake was not realizing what a baby you are.”
4. Telling the other person why you don’t want them to mad at you and then apologizing so they won’t still be mad at you. Uh, it’s not about you. It’s about how you hurt them.
5. Giving every reason why you did what you did or said what you said. This is your topical facts, logic, and reason response. It is simply a glorified more detailed version of “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Either way it, like all of the others, misses the most over riding problem.
For the sake of time and simplicity, we are going to presuppose that you have been presented quite clearly that you are wrong. Something you have said or done has hurt a loved one or anyone for that matter. You are wrong and need to apologize. Therefor, where do we go from here?
1. The key is to seek UNDERSTANDING not forgiveness. Forgiveness is about you, understanding how you hurt someone is about them.
2. Begin by asking yourself, “do I care?” If you don’t, you have a real problem. Someone you love, or at least know, is hurting. You are at fault. This needs to be the focus of everything from here on out.
3. Take a moment and try to see HOW they are hurting. What emotional needs are wounded and not being met?
4. Ask yourself, “How do I feel FOR this person?” (knowing that they are hurting in this way). Ask this while removing yourself from the cause of the hurt. Do not confuse how YOU feel about hurting this person with how you feel that THEY are hurting. Picture their hurt absent your causing it. How do you feel THAT they are hurting?
5. If you are one who has a relationship with God and take time to pray, stop and ask Him, “How do you feel for this person?” Listen, actually listen for a response. Tell Him that you know that hurting them is wrong and that you are sorry. Receive His forgiveness.
6. Now, summarize what you have just done and communicate that to the person you have wronged.
7. Make sure you tell them that what you did/said was wrong.
8. At this point, the most brilliant component comes into play. I am in no way overselling this. You ask the person, “Is there any other way that this made you feel?” You may have missed something. You want to know every way you have hurt them. If they tell you something else, great, you can apologize for that too. If they don’t, you are just about done. The brilliant thing is, you are clearing all hurts. If they choose not to share something at this point, it’s on them. If they do, great, you want to understand ALL of the ways you have hurt them. You are free to move on at this point.
9. Now, after you have done all of this, you simply say, “I am sorry that I did these things and hurt you in these ways. I hope you can choose to forgive me at some point.” Now, you are out…it’s on them. You are blameless, you are in the clear. If they choose to not forgive you it’s their problem, and a problem it will be.
10. It should sound something like this, “I realize that what I said (though you should actually say what you said) hurt you. I can see that it caused you to feel disrespected, not supported, and left you really feeling alone (or whatever you feel they felt). Am I correct in how this has hurt you? Did my words cause you to feel anything else that I haven’t mentioned? It was wrong of me to say what I did and I am sorry that I said that. Will you forgive me?”
Now, they may not want to forgive you. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. It is not permitting the offense or saying that it is ok for it to happen again. Also, there is a lot that goes into expressing a hurt in the proper way. But for now, if you just work on how you go about apologizing I think you will go a long way toward being a better you.
Try it, see how it works. Let us know (in the comments below) how it goes and if you come across, both personally, on t.v. or in the media etc., some really crappy apologies. Sadly, they are out there…in abundance. If I have caused apologies to forever be changed in your eyes and you now realize that no one apologizes “correctly” to you…well, uh…sorry.