“I’m sorry,” is a phrase that is often over-used, mis-used and under-used. Let’s take a look at the etiquette behind a proper apology.
“I’m sorry” is often said when we are attempting to correct a wrong. The vast majority of people are incorrigibly moral. We have a set of ethics that ring alarm bells when either we have been wronged, or feel we have wronged someone else. Psychology refers to this as our conscience mind and theology a sense of ought. These wrongs come in many forms; emotional or physical harm, a crime punishable by law, or a break in trust. These wrongs also vary between cultures, but the common thread is accountability when a wrong has been done.
We have a need to connect with others and an act of wrong can create a disconnect. There becomes an urge for reconciliation or reconnection and this is done by owning our mistakes and effectively apologizing for them.
What is an effective apology?
Regardless of the wrong, most people expect to receive an apology. Most people feel that a very simple “I’m sorry” is not sufficient when they are on the receiving end, however; it qualifies when they are the ones apologizing.
If a simple “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, what is? Follow the “5R” rule and you will succeed every time!!
An expression of regret is always the first step. “I am truly sorry for…“. It is an acknowledgement of your actions and the harm they have caused. This statement must be sincere. Your body language must agree with your verbal language; we spoke of this in a previous post Saving Your Marriage.
Regret can be verbally expressed, but the most sincere apologies are backed up by your body language.
Taking responsibility for your actions demonstrates an admirable level of maturity. It takes a strong person to openly admit that they were wrong.
You are free to choose your actions, however; you are not free to choose the consequences of those actions.~Unknown
Demonstrating a willingness to accept the consequences, whatever they may be, speaks to the sincerity of your apology and further enhances the reconciliation of the relationship.
Anyone can say “I’m sorry”, but not everyone can demonstrate a willingness to change. The most sincere apologies are in the patterns. If the behaviour continues; the apology was insincere. Behaviour patterns speak louder than words. If you truly want your apology to be accepted and the relationship repaired, do not repeat your actions.
Most people have an immense capacity for forgiveness. It is only when the behaviours repeat that this capacity diminishes.
Asking for forgiveness should not be done to lessen your guilt, it should be done to ease the discomfort or pain in the person you have wronged.
“Can you please forgive me?” is equivalent to “can you find a way to let this go?”. When the offended person let’s go of the harm the relationship can be repaired.
- A relationship will not be repaired when the offended person refuses to let go of the harm done. There needs to be a willingness to reconcile. Holding onto grudges will be the demise of the relationship.
- Both parties must demonstrate a willingness to change and move forward. Other wise we are simply staying stuck in patterns of self-destruction.
- Please pay attention to the behaviour patterns. If the apology is for a behaviour or action that has happened a few times, this needs to be a red flag for you!!
- DO NOT apologise for something you know you have not done to end an argument & DO NOT assume the consequences of someone else’s actions. If this is something you struggle with, please let us help you. You deserve so much better!!
It is important to also forgive ourselves. We are all human and none of us is perfect. We are going to make mistakes. These are not points of shame, but lessons to be learned. Having self-awareness and willingness to grow is how we heal ourselves. We must heal ourselves before we can fully begin to help others heal.
Here is a little prayer I use to practise my own forgiveness. I say this prayer multiple times a day and it has eased so much of my guilt, shame and pain from the past. It is from an ancient Hawaiian Practice of Forgiveness & Healing. If you’d like more information on how this practise can help you heal, comment below and I will reach out to you.
Simply saying “I’m sorry” may be sufficient in some cases, but a properly executed apology will mend the damage, allow for reconciliation and potentially improve the quality of the relationship.