If you’ve been hurt by another, or you’ve hurt another, an apology is a healing balm that can help strengthen a relationship.
We’ve all done things that have hurt others, and we’ve all been hurt by others; it’s part of the process of being human.
In the best case scenario, we can learn from our mistakes and make amends. In the worst case scenario, relationships crumble through denial of issues or lack of skill to navigate a hurt.
If you’ve been hurt, there will be 3 things you’ll be waiting for to move forward within that relationship. And if you’ve hurt another, the same 3 things will be guides for you to so you can truly apologize.
3 steps to a really good apology
1. Acknowledge what happened
Acknowledgement is the sacred witness to what happened. Acknowledgement means seeing a situation clearly so you know what happened, without sugar coating it, or down playing it. When there is no acknowledgement there is emotional abandonment and most relationships can’t survive that level of neglect. Here’s an example of acknowledging what happened:
“I know the way our conversation went last night was unsettling.”
2. Clearly state the harm that has been caused
Acknowledging a situation is one step, but clearly stating the harm that has been caused is about recognizing the damage. This is the beginning of taking responsibility. Here’s an example of clearly stating the harm that has been caused:
“I can now see that the things I said were hurtful and made you feel like you don’t matter.”
3. Apologize for what’s been done
This is the point where the magic words “I’m sorry” weave into the apology. These magical words only have meaning if the first two steps have been addressed. Otherwise, an apology is just lip service rather than a bridge to re-build a relationship. Here’s an example of an apology:
“I’m truly sorry for the things I said last night and the pain it caused you. I know how crushed you were by my words. It was never my intention to hurt you, but I know that I did hurt you, and for that I am so sorry.”
Bonus step: Moving forward
Not all apologies require anything beyond the first 3 steps. But in personal and professional relationships, it is helpful to express how things will change moving forward because of what happened. Here’s an example of how to apologize with the intention of moving forward together:
“Now that I know how much my words hurt you, I am going to do a lot more work to understand where that was coming from within me. Our relationship matters to me, you matter to me, and I am going to do the work to make sure I don’t do that again.”
Learning how to apologize empowers relationships and creates room for growth.
When apologies are done right, respect grows and trust deepens.
If you’ve been wanting to apologize to someone for something that happened but just didn’t know how, now you do. Give it a go!
If you’re waiting for someone to apologize to you, and they just aren’t capable of it yet, (you can find a creative way to get this article to them, or) you can go through this 3 step process and give yourself the apology you need to acknowledge your pain and liberate yourself from waiting. Sometimes moving forward means doing it on your own. But if you’ve moved forward with self-respect, you won’t be lonely.
You never know when someone is in need of saving a relationship!
Empower someone today! Share “How to Apologize” with your friends.