The Art of Saying Sorry
“I apologise” or “sorry” are among the most powerful phrases in English, yet, they are also the hardest to convey. Why is it so difficult to apologise when we need to, but dish out “sorry” for trivial things like mistakenly bumping into someone?
This is what we’re exploring today, along with how to make your apology meaningful when it matters most.
Apologies Are Misused
Has sorry ‘lost’ its punch?
How many times a day do you say ‘sorry’? Did you know that the average person says sorry around 8-10 times a day! And, we’re willing to bet that only once in a month of Sundays would that apology be warranted.
An apology should be used when you feel remorse for causing someone emotional or physical pain, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Every time we say “sorry I missed your call” or “sorry, I forgot to buy milk” we are taking away the real meaning of the word.
Why Truly Apologising Can Be So Hard
A true apology means showing humility and making ourselves vulnerable. In many ways, it feels as though we are surrendering a certain amount of power and control to another person. For this reason, people opt not to apologise for fear of being perceived as weak. Sometimes, it is just too difficult to admit they are wrong.
The irony is that it takes great strength to humbly put yourself out there by admitting that you’ve messed up. Being able to own up to your mistake and sincerely ask for forgiveness is admirable. It makes people respect you more. Provided, of course, that you mean it when you say sorry.
When Should We Apologise?
Humans are sociable creatures. We are best when we are together as families, in friendship, or romantic relationships. The close relationships we form can be damaged by our actions.
Our emotions can get the better of us, and we may say or harmful things or act in a way that hurts another person’s feelings. We get overwhelmed or distracted. We make poor choices, even with the best intentions. There are many instances where something we have done can directly or indirectly cause someone’s pain.
“A sincere and honest apology is like a gift, you give it without expecting anything in return.”
When you learn that your actions, unintentional or otherwise, have hurt someone you care about—and you feel sincere remorse—you should probably apologise.
Apologies have power when they are used in the right circumstances. When they aren’t, you risk causing more (and even irreparable) damage to your relationship down the line. Don’t apologise when something is not your fault, or only for the sake of peace.
Never use an apology to:
- Justify your actions
- As a means of manipulation
- Blame someone else for your behaviour
You should also never retract an apology if it isn’t immediately accepted. Sometimes people just need time to process. A sincere and honest apology is like a gift, you give it without expecting anything in return.
How To Apologise In Seven Steps
1. First, understand what you did wrong, and how that made the other person feel. This will help you construct a better apology, and figure out how you can repair the damage.
2. Respect the other person’s feelings. Everyone is entitled to their feelings. Allow the other person time to come to terms with how they feel. Don’t pressure them into being happy just because you’re apologising.
3. Be specific. A blanket apology helps no-one. It’s best to tackle the real cause of the problem head-on and show what you want to fix.
4. Take responsibility. Don’t try to point blame in any other direction. There may be mitigating circumstances, but your apology is about your role in what happened.
5. Say what you mean. Be sincere, play open cards. Even white lies here will undermine what you are trying to accomplish.
6. Take action. Explain what you will or are willing to do to remedy the situation. For example, making a promise never to repeat your actions, or carving out niche time for your special someone every day.
7. Accept that you might not receive forgiveness from the recipient, but, don’t punish yourself. If your apology was sincere, allow yourself to move one.
Sincere apologies should always be given in person. This can sometimes be difficult especially if the person you have hurt lives far away, then a genuine heartfelt letter or email will be best. Text messages aren’t great, they come across as snubbed and look lazy.
When Words Just Aren’t Enough
Giving a gift with your apology can heighten it. It shows you have taken time to consider your actions and reinforces the fact that you feel true remorse. A gift illustrates that you are putting your weight behind your words. As a gift is tangible, it is also an excellent way for the person to accept or reject your apology physically.