Just as we speak different love languages, the same applies to apologies. A dear friend of mine says when she’s been hurt or wronged, she wants an empathetic apology and she needs to hear the words, “I am sorry and I will not do it again.” A former colleague of mine had a hard time saying the words, “I am sorry.” Instead, he’d buy his wife a nice handbag, jewelry or a gift as his way of apologizing. It’s Think out loud Thursday, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be sorry and the subject of apologizing.
Why do apologies exist and why do we need them? It’s pretty simple. An apology says to us, “I matter.” Especially in meaningful relationships, an apology reaffirms that we have shared values and we will protect each other and our relationship. Most importantly, it also means that there will not be a repeat and we are not going to be hurt again.
Do you apologize? Do you have a hard time? How do you apologize? Sometimes people have a hard time apologizing because it admits imperfection and that they’re wrong. Many relationships don’t recover from this simply because one’s ego was too important. Conversely, there are people who say “sorry” so often that their words hold no value. My former colleague’s method of gift giving as a way of apologizing would not work for me at all. It actually humors me and is insulting. Like my friend, I need to hear the words, “I am sorry and I will not do this again.” It also needs to be sincere and for me often requires time to show me that they will not repeat this again. How do you want someone to apologize to you?
To me, an apology has these 4 components:
- Accepts Responsibility
- Expresses Regret
- Is delivered in a Timely manner
- Is Sincere
Without responsibility, there is no accountability and it’s just an excuse. Without regret, there will be a repeat. Timeliness is also essential because relationships are so delicate that things can spiral down quicker than a black hole! Sincerity is important. Ever seen a teen roll their eyes while apologizing? Talk about adding fuel to fire!!!
Here are some examples of “Sorry NOT Sorry” apologies that are just a waste of breath, have you ever experienced any of this:
- “I am sorry that you feel that I hurt your feelings.”
– NO accountability or acceptance of responsibility
- “I am sorry that I hurt you, but you over reacted.”
– Accepts responsibility, however it’s followed with a justification
- “I am sorry that I was late, it will never happen again.” ONLY to be late again.
-All talk, no action
Knowing how to recover when we have done something wrong or when we have been wronged are important in relationships. Also, knowing what we are willing to accept (and not) are just as important.