It’s often hard enough to get ourselves to apologise in the first place, but did you know there are rules to it? Many celebrities have found themselves confused when theirs didn’t land well (remember Laura Lee?). To avoid finding yourself in the same boat and to truly mend relationships, here are some tips I found useful:
The point of an apology should never be to make yourself feel better or absorb you of any guilt. We need to practice emotional sobriety beforehand to be aware of our intentions. The focus should be entirely on the other person, in hopes that your words will help them. We do not attack or blame them at all, and we have no expectations.
The tips are taken from a 2-part Brene Brown podcast interview with Dr. Harriet Lerner, a clinical psychologist and author. You can listen to it here, or see the bullet points below.
An apology is only worth so much as what follows it. Have we taken measures to ensure that we behave differently? Sometimes we need to make up for our actions, for instance when we owe money. Other times, we need to work on our behaviour to cancel less, speak honestly or take on less commitments. In any case, we have to be ready for our relationship to change forever. You might find this post about strengthening relationships using Guy Winch’s technique useful to work ahead.
You might not think you need to apologise.
Remember you are doing it for you, not them.
It doesn’t matter who was more in the wrong. By honestly apologising, you do not need to carry guilt feelings around anymore. You have addressed the issue to learn from it. Doing your bit, practice active listening and hear the other person out. No more second guessing, worrying or running away from the issue: you know where you and the other person stand. They don’t need to forgive you for you to feel better.
And when someone apologises to you? Or you wish they did?
Remember, forgiveness is a one-way street. Be grateful and try to be empathetic: swallowing your ego to speak honestly is always hard. You may not even get an apology, but it sure helps with closure. I learned to slowly forgive my childhood abusers, as hard and counterintuitive as it felt, because I knew that I deserved better than to carry all this resentment around. Take your time with it and don’t rush however.
In any case, make sure to check out Brene’s podcast. If you don’t know her already, she’s the all-round powerhouse who gave this famous TED-talk on vulnerability.
Do you have any experiences with apologies? Let me know so we can all grow together!