Learning to Give, Receive Apologies Keeps Relationships Solid
Do you sometimes have trouble giving or accepting apologies? Appropriately offering or receiving apologies may enrich, salvage or create a new and healthier relationship.
Here are some simple guidelines for saying and not rejecting “I’m sorry.”
* Make apologies complete enough to convey what you mean. Let the apology include remedial action if possible.
For example: “I’m sorry I forgot my appointment with you. Let me do something to offset the inconvenience I caused.” Or “I’m sorry the service I provided did not meet your expectations. Things did not go as I had planned; so, let me offer you a redo at no cost.”
Another example might be, “I’m sorry the things you hired me to do didn’t go well. Let me personally explain to your boss what happened so he won’t think it was your fault.”
* Learn how to receive apologies and acknowledge them in a healthy fashion. Giving apologies frequently requires a lot of energy and is often difficult. The receiver of the apology should be able to respond by telling the giver he or she acknowledges the apology and appreciates the concern.
It often helps the giver feel more comfortable if the receiver makes statements like: “I’m sure that took a lot of effort on your part. I appreciate very much that you acknowledged your mistake.” Such statements reinforce the giver’s belief that he did the correct thing.
* Don’t forget to apologize to your children when you make a mistake. Parents frequently think it is wrong to say “I’m sorry” when they are clearly wrong. This is a significant error in parent/child communication. Make the apology clear, concise and free from double messages. This act sets the right example for children to follow.
Don’t say, “I’m sorry, but if such and such had not happened I wouldn’t have done what I did.” That neutralizes or dilutes the apology and again brings sincerity in question. Sidestepping the blame can cause further problems in the relationship.
* Inflated self-esteem can stand in the way of making necessary apologies. Most of us know the harmful effects, but we frequently have trouble applying this knowledge to ourselves. Examine your own ego and see if you have some real hang-ups that are causing difficulties in communication.
In husband/wife relationships, truthfully saying “I’m sorry” can be one of the cornerstones of maintaining a sound marriage.
Knowing when to apologize and doing so is a good sign of a healthy, mature individual.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright © 2010