#4 on my, 99 Life Tips – A Listis: Learn to apologize well – that includes not just what you did, but also how what you did made the other person feel.
My post, Own It When You’re Wrong – And The Self-Respect Too implores the reader simply to be able to apologize when necessary. For some, the act of saying ”I’m sorry” is a significant hurdle to overcome. I am giving you the benefit of the doubt. You’re able to form those words and express them when needed. So, let’s look at how to apologize well. Knowing how is a step toward emotional intelligence. Apologizing well is a demonstration of emotional intelligence.
First, recognize the emotional prompts motivating your apology. You may feel anything from mild embarrassment to severe shame. But you know at some level, you feel uneasy sweeping the situation under the rug, pretending it didn’t happen. You aren’t looking for someone else to blame, because your conscience is already blaming you. If you didn’t feel bad about what you’ve done, if you didn’t own it, you wouldn’t be contemplating an apology.
Now, there is a second step in knowing how to apologize well. For your apology to really mean anything, you’ll need to see that if is causing you self-directed negative emotions, it is an easy jump to realize how the target or object of your wrong must be feeling. If you feel bad for what you’ve done, they likely feel worse for having it done to them.
Third, recognize that this effect, this subsequent hurt you caused, is the outgrowth of the act itself, is just as damaging, and needs its own acknowledgment for any real relational reparation to occur. To apologize well, the inclusion of this acknowledgement is mandatory. If your apology is to be full and sincere, this is the critical component your ”victim” needs for there to be any restorative effect.
Don’t avoid this by simply mumbling a quick, ”my bad.” Even if you cannot know exactly how your ”sufferer” feels, at minimum, acknowledge that you didn’t make them feel good. So, at this stage you’re recognizing both what you did wrong, AND, the negative feelings it has produced.
Now, express your regrets and remorse over what you did. Say so plainly. Do not use the word ”if” when making an apology. Don’t say, ”I’m sorry, if what I did hurt you.” And don’t apologize for how the other person feels like this, ”I’m sorry you feel that way.” That is little more than a manipulative, blaming tactic clothed in a lame pseudo-apology. You don’t want to be told how to feel, and neither do they.
And finally, connect emotionally by expressions of remorse over how your actions or words made the other person feel. ”I’m so sorry I said that to you. I know my outburst must have really stung and embarrassed you, and I’m really sorry for making you feel that way.” Or something along these lines, ”I feel terrible for how my words hurt you. I am truly sorry.”
Again, to apologize well requires this emotional component. A good apology demonstrates emotional intelligence, and has the ability to both reconcile and restore. Learn to apologize well.