Let’s face it. We as humans suck at apologizing. That is, when we actually do apologize, which probably isn’t as often as it should be. There is a stigma attached to it.
It means that you are wrong. And you are NEVER wrong…right?
Because if you are wrong it means that you are not perfect. And if you are not perfect it means that you have given up some form of power or control. And if you have given up some form of power or control it probably means that your parents didn’t love you or something like that. (I’m not sure why…I just know that it always leads back to your parents.)
Well, it’s time to get over yourself. To not only apologize but learn how to apologize the right way. Yes, that’s right. There is a right way and a wrong way to apologize. Chances are, when you do get around to apologizing, it’s the wrong way. Let me guess, it probably goes something like this:
“I’m sorry if I upset you. OK?”
Other variations include replacing “OK?” with “There!” or “Are we done now?”
That is Not an Apology
That is a request to shut up and change the subject. That type of apology actually makes matters worse and yet, we find it acceptable. It is good enough to close the books on the problem. For now. Eventually you are going to screw up again at which point your crappy little apology won’t hold water and now you have two problems to contend with.
The big issue that I have with this type of apology is that you have somehow made the other person wrong even though it was you that screwed up. I’m sorry if I upset you? You are implying that I am too sensitive or fragile to take it. That what you did was fine. That it is my inability to stand up straight without a spine that is the problem.
What you are really saying is “Hey, I’m perfectly OK with what I did but since you are being such a pussy about it, I’m going to apologize so you will drop it already and we can move on. Fair enough?”
Gee, thanks. I feel so much better.
This is an Apology
Apologizing is an art. And when done right it actually means something. A good apology begins the healing process. It wipes the slate clean and allows everyone to move on. Everyone. Not just you.
But only if it is done right. And an apology that is done right has 4 parts:
Part 1: I’m Sorry
Start by just saying you are sorry. Period. Do not add anything else. No “I’m sorry if…” or “I’m sorry that…” or “I’m sorry but…”. Just “I’m sorry.” This way there is absolutely no confusing the fact that you screwed up and you are not trying to push the blame or belittle the other persons feelings. I’m sorry. That’s it. Simple enough.
Part 2: I Did Not Mean to…
The second part of your apology is “I did not mean to” and then insert whatever crappy thing you did or said. This is already implied by your apology since the other person clearly knows what you did. But reiterating it ensures that you are both on the same page and there is no doubt about what you did wrong and that you are sorry for it.
Part 3: What Can I Do to Make it Better?
Once you clearly stated what you did wrong, simple ask “what can I do to make it better?” This is the most important part. It means that your apology is more than just a simple apology. It’s not just a bunch of words. It means that you want to make it right. That you not only want to move on from the problem but you want to actually fix it.
Part 4: Shutup
The final part of a good apology is to stop talking. Allow the other person to speak. And be OK with the fact that they will likely air their feelings even though you just got done apologizing to them. They need some closure on it to. So, listen. And when they are done, don’t defend yourself and reopen the wound. Your only choices are to either say OK or go back to step 1 and reiterate your apology.
I know, I know. It sounds like a lot of work. It can be. But it’s well worth doing right. Fortunately, I have not screwed up in several years so I don’t have to…hold on a second, my wife is yelling at me about something. OK. Apparently, I have in fact screwed up. A lot. And it sounds like I owe someone an apology.
So Aimee…I’m really sorry if I upset you. Better?
Featured image courtesy of hang_in_there licensed via Creative Commons.