“I’m sorry” –- this simple phrase is so hard to pronounce sometimes. Many people have complicated feelings about apologies, and not all of our thoughts and feelings about apologies line up. Some of us were forced to apologize as children when we hurt someone, and some of us apologized freely and felt immediately better after having done so. Some people feel shamed by apologizing while others feel ashamed until we have done so. But, why is saying sorry so important? Those two little words, “I’m sorry” can have a huge impact on the person whose feelings have been hurt, especially if the apology is a sincere one.
Saying “sorry” gives us enough courage to admit our actions and gives us feedback to be flexible to change our actions., actions that will lead to building up the foundation of any relation with trust. Saying “I’m sorry” and admitting that we did something wrong is the first step to self-improvement. Being unable to apologize is a recipe for a brittle relation. Saying “I’m sorry” gives relationship the resiliency to weather both parties mistakes.
Why is it so difficult to say “I’m sorry”?
- When you apologize, you admit that you may be wrong, which is a threat to our ego and our pride. You should learn how to be objective and admit your mistakes, and not to allow your egocentrism to blind you.
- Some people see an apology as a confirmation of guilt and, as a result, of responsibility for the conflict. They mistakenly believe that if they apologize, then the other person wouldn’t realize his or her own wrong behaviour. This is false. Apologizing in fact opens the lines of communication, and stimulates empathy and understanding on both sides.
- The apology is viewed as a means to draw attention to the mistake. This leads to a misguided implication that it’s better to ignore or deny offenses and hope that nobody will notice. But it doesn’t matter how little the mistake is; if there is hurt involved, you should apologize rather than let it fester.
- The person thinks that he or she is the one who deserve an apology first, so they wait for the partner to apologize. But this can be toxic for the relationship. Don’t wait, make the first step; apologizing will only increase your self-respect, not diminish it.
- The person might see an apology as a way of dwelling on the past, when they just want to move on. But if you move forward without first analysing and understanding your actions and the hurt they caused, then you are likely to repeat your mistakes in the future.
- Some people assume that apologizing is a sign of weakness, but actually, it is a hallmark of strength. It is an act of generosity, and an expression of hope for a recrudescent relationship. It is in fact an act of bravery, because it subjects people to the risk of humiliation.
- The person believes that he or she is not worthy of forgiveness. They cling to excuses like “he or she will never forgive me, so why I should I even try?”. But thoughts like these can be extremely destructive to any relationship, because the helpless it breeds stops the offending party from taking the actions required to heal and mend.
Apologizing and not meaning it can mean you’re holding onto negative emotions and emotions don’t disappear they come out in the form of depression or anxiety, or as stress related physical complications like heart disease, respiratory issues, ulcers, and muscle aches. Unresolved anger can also raise your risk of developing psychological conditions, like the eating disorder bulimia nervosa. It can also take a toll on the nervous system and get in the way of clear thinking. When you apologize and are genuinely remorseful, you relieve yourself of these manifestations of holding negative emotions inside.
The Connection Between Apology and Empathy
To forgive, most people need to gain some empathy and compassion for the wrongdoer. This is where apology comes in. When someone apologizes, it is a lot easier to view him or her in a compassionate way. When wrongdoers apologize, we find it easier to forgive them.
This is likely because when someone confesses to and apologizes for hurting us, we are then able to develop a new image of that person. Instead of seeing him through anger and bitterness, the person’s humility and apology cause us to see him as a fallible, vulnerable human being. We see the wrongdoer as more human, more like ourselves and this moves us.
How to Give a Meaningful Apology
If you have difficulties apologizing, the following will teach you the most effective way to go about it. A meaningful apology communicates the three R’s: Regret, Responsibility and Remedy.
Regret: statement of regret for having caused the hurt or damage
While your intention may not have been to cause harm, you recognize that your action or inaction nevertheless did hurt this person. This regret needs to be communicated. This includes an expression of empathy with an acknowledgement of the injustice you caused.
Responsibility: an acceptance of responsibility for your actions
This means not blaming anyone else and not making excuses for what you did. For an apology to be effective it must be clear that you are accepting total responsibility for your action or inaction. Therefore, your apology needs to include a statement of responsibility.
Remedy: a statement of willingness to remedy the situation
While you can’t undo the past, you can repair the harm you caused. Therefore, a meaningful apology needs to include a statement in which you offer restitution, or a promise to take action so that you will not repeat the behaviour.
Unless all three of these elements are present, the other person will sense that something is missing in your apology and he or she may feel short comings.