Have you ever found that saying “I’m sorry” just does not do the trick to feel connected with the one who is offended? Or, on the other hand, have you ever received an “I’m sorry” and realize that it just does not feel like it meant anything or penetrated your hurt? I know I have been on both sides of that coin.
The question is: why does saying or hearing, “I’m sorry” or “sorry” sometimes not work?
There are probably many reasons for this: the tone of voice, the pain behind the event, or “just because.” However, there is a way to give an apology that hits all the areas we need to move on and feel connected. I call it “the A+ apology.” I have listed some steps below with a brief example of how this might look like.
Admit what we did wrong
An example of this is: “I know that I interrupted you and that was wrong.”
Admit how it affected the other
Example: “I know that when I interrupt you, it makes you feel like I do not care and you then shut down.”
Talk about your intent
Example: “I do not want you to feel that I do not care and I do not want you to shut down, because I want to be close to you. My intention is never to hurt you, and yet I know I did.”
Give an apology
Example: “With that said, I did hurt you and I ask that you forgive me.”
Map the future
Example: “Going forward, I will be intentional about not interrupting you, because I want you to feel heard by me.”
Why this works: The Break-Down
Admitting what we did to hurt the other shows that we understand how our actions were not helpful.When we take the additional step and talk about how our actions made the other feel, it shows we understand the impact of our actions. Acknowledging what we did wrong helps soften the other to see that not only we care, but that we see them and their pain.
Acknowledging that our actions affected the other also shows that we see them, that we know that we are involved with each other in such a way that our actions affect them.It demonstrates taking ownership, which helps the person feel seen and heard.
Talking about our intent is truly powerful.It validates the person’s experience and pain, while letting them know that we are for them, care for them, and long for something closer with them.Knowing these things from someone we care about always makes us feel warm and safe.
When we apologize, we are asking them to forgive us and that is most powerful when we acknowledge how our actions hurt another. With that said, we cannot force someone to forgive us.That is a gift we are asking for, and it might not happen.We have to understand that people might not forgive us, but we are asking for forgiveness for our own growth, for the potential for a deeper relationship, and because we want to live in a way that we feel we are living our best selves with integrity.
Mapping for the future is super powerful as well.It is here that we show we will try to do better in the future.It is ok during this point if we say something like, “I want to stop interrupting you, and I might need help with that. In my family we always talked over each other since there were 7 of us, so I might do it without thinking; however, going forward I will try to be more intentional, and if I slip, I might need your help.”Doing this demonstrates not only that we are willing to be transparent with our struggles but that we are inviting the person to be a team in trying to build the friendship/partnership.