If you’re like me, and I know I am, there have been several times in my life when I wanted to and needed to apologize. (An incident or two may have even occurred during these last three months of quarantine!)
But apologies are tricky. Most of us haven’t really progressed that far from the mumbled “I’m sorry” left over from childhood. And the “I’m sorry you feel that way” approach sounds like a very civilized way of making you wrong for your feelings. It’s about as satisfying as being handed a cold dead fish.
So how do you apologize in a way that your listener can really hear what you are saying?
This is the time when you put the other person first. Your part in this situation will come in later.
First of all, acknowledge the other person’s feelings. Do NOT paraphrase. Use their words. Say something like “it doesn’t feel very good to be ignored” or “embarrassed” or whatever it is your listener is upset about. Be sure to use the word that he or she used in describing their feelings.
Then, make a simple statement. This is where you say “I’m sorry that happened”. You can also add “I never intended for you to feel that way,” or “that’s not the message I was trying to send”.
Resist the urge to explain yourself. A good thing to remember is that a real apology does not, come with a“but”.
This is the time where you can make some suggestions or give your listener an idea of steps that you could take to prevent situations like this from happening again.
It’s never really easy to admit that you made a mistake. But as soon as you realize that there might be a problem, the quicker sooner you address it the better.
If you follow these simple steps, you have done everything you can to make the situation better. Also, if this feels like too much work for you, take some time because you are not really ready to apologize.