I set out to share with a deep love of mine the importance of an apology, especially in any type of intimate relationship (romantic, business partner, family member etc).
An apology is a tool to create a safe space to begin a dialogue between you and the other person. Especially when there has been a disagreement, misunderstanding, miscommunication, or an outright outburst! It is a place to "lay down your sword" and an invitation to the other person to do the same. It is a rest, rather than a battle. A place of intentional peace making, rather than antagonizing.
An apology is a place where all parties involved have an opportunity to take responsibility for their piece in the interaction. Nobody's perfect and both of you have something wonderful to LEARN from the interaction.
When you apologize, you also acknowledge that you engaged in behavior that was other than what you would like to express, or in behavior that hurt the other person. Even if what you did was perfectly okay for you, acknowledging that you may have caused harm to the other person allows the dialogue to begin, and for you to take a moment and step into empathy - really "getting their world."
Taking responsibility for your actions is one of the most empowering acts we can do as a human being. It allows us to claim our position and also understand what we are going to look at, learn from, and attempt to do differently in the future.
Why is it so difficult?
Apologies take vulnerability, and vulnerability takes courage. You are putting down your sword first. This does not guarantee that the other(s) involved will do the same. There is a risk.
Oftentimes shame and embarrassment from the actions can come up. And, we live in a culture where saying "sorry" can be seen as weak. But it is just the opposite. It is a powerful tool for you to learn from the interaction, and invite the person you are relating to, to do the same.
So HOW DO YOU APOLOGIZE?
Always state that you would like to apologize. I usually ask for the other person to hear my fully before sharing their side.
1. Acknowledge what you did.
State exactly what you did without justifying anything. Honoring the lack of commitment you were able to meet, or the falling short of what you would have liked to have done. Be specific. Be concise. No need to beat yourself up, just state the facts as clearly as you can. Breathe and speak slowly.
Eg: "This morning I spoke loudly and stormed out of the room without listening to the rest of what you had to say."
2. Empathize with the person about what you did.
Why are you apologizing? No need to make assumptions, just do you best to step into the other person's experience and share from your heart.
For example, "I imagine when I yelled at you this morning you might have felt sad and distanced."
This will help the other person feel like you are on their team. That you sword is now down, and out of reach. That you are willing to reach outside of your own experience and "get their world." And when done simply, and from the heart, it will feel really good for you, and for them.
3. Commit to a solution with yourself and with the other person.
This is a way to show that you are willing to take responsibility for your actions BEYOND just this event. This is really where the learning can come in most powerfully from our intimate relationships
"I am committing to myself to explore why I express myself with so much anger towards you. I am also committing to work on being gentler with you, especially in the morning."
I have heard that a step here would be to promise to not do this behavior again. However I find that problematic. We are human, and it is very likely that you WILL do this again. Especially if you are working in a pattern in an intimate relationship. Commit to doing your best, and do it. I invite you to never commit to something that you cannot complete.
4. Apologize & Ask for Forgiveness
Yes. There are TWO steps in one here.
One, to say I am sorry, and repeat the behavior that you are apologizing for. And second, is to invite them to participate in this process of making amends.
"I am sorry for _______"
"Would you please forgive me?"
This gives the other person(s) a moment to respond and also allows them to find the place in their heart to ACCEPT your apology.
So there it is.
Try it out, and let me know how it works for you.
To the journey,
Briana Cavion, MA, MAnlp
Briana is a Communication and Relationship Coach for WholeLife Neuro-Linguistic Programing (wholelifenlp.com). She and her clients get real about what is working (and not) in their careers and relationships. She has been described as having a "magical" way of helping her clients identify and release what has been slowing them down, stopping them and sabotaging their communication and relationships. Together they journey to discover personal power, soulful leadership and authentic communication. She works from the premise that life is not about one goal achieved after another, or one relationship onto the next, but an incredible opportunity to create the truest expression of your highest purpose, greatest impact and deepest gifts.