Social psychologists know that an apology leads to forgiveness, can recover a spoiled relationship, and may heal indignity. Saying “sorry” denotes that you have chosen your relationship over your your ego. Yet so many of us can’t find can’t find the strength within us to admit our fault. Let’s see what the main benefits of apologizing are, what the main obstacles are that hold us back from saying “I’m sorry,” and how to make a genuine apology.
The Power of an Apology: Why Love Means Saying “I’m Sorry”
The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway.
– Henry Boye
The benefits of apologizing
Apologizing is vital, since it helps to smooth any conflict and re-establish a spiritual connection with the partner. If you master the art of apologizing, it will help you reduce relationship stress and to move on from conflicts and tensions. There are many proven benefits of apologizing.
- When you say that you are sorry, it restores the dignity of the hurt person and makes them feel better. The offended party, who receives the apology, develops empathy towards the offender, which then transforms their feeling of hurt into forgiveness.
- An apology may restore trust and understanding to a relationship, because it contributes to a feeling of safety and makes both the receiver and the giver feel comfortable and respected. Apologizing therefore helps you and your loved one stay emotionally connected, and strengthens the bond between you two.
- When you make a sincere apology, and this trust and understanding gets restored, a person can start to see you in a different light. They will have a greater tendency to overlook your flaws and highlight your virtues.
- As Guy Winch, psychologist and author of Emotional First Aid, reckons, “An effective apology doesn’t just heal the wound for the other person, it’ll dissolve your guilt too.” Eventually, you develop a sense of self-respect and the ability to move on quickly. It also serves as a deterrent, so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes again.
Why is it so difficult to say “I’m sorry”?
“I’m sorry” –- this simple phrase is so hard to pronounce sometimes. The underlying reasons for this are varied, but the most common are:
- When you apologize, you admit that you may be wrong, which is a threat to our ego and our pride. You should learn how to be objective and admit your mistakes, and not to allow your egocentrism to blind you.
- Some people see an apology as a confirmation of guilt and, as a result, of responsibility for the conflict. They mistakenly believe that if they apologize, then the other person wouldn’t realize his or her own wrong behavior. This is false. Apologizing in fact opens the lines of communication, and stimulates empathy and understanding on both sides.
- The apology is viewed as a means to draw attention to the mistake. This leads to a misguided implication that it’s better to ignore or deny offenses and hope that nobody will notice. But it doesn’t matter how little the mistake is; if there is hurt involved, you should apologize rather than let it fester.
- The person thinks that he or she is the one who deserve an apology first, so they wait for the partner to apologize. But this can be toxic for the relationship. Don’t wait, make the first step; apologizing will only increase your self-respect, not diminish it.
- The person might see an apology as a way of dwelling on the past, when they just want to move on. But if you move forward without first analyzing and understanding your actions and the hurt they caused, then you are likely to repeat your mistakes in the future.
- Some people assume that apologizing is a sign of weakness, but actually, it is a hallmark of strength. It is an act of generosity, and an expression of hope for a recrudescent relationship. It is in fact an act of bravery, because it subjects people to the risk of humiliation.
- The person believes that he or she is not worthy of forgiveness. They cling to excuses like “he or she will never forgive me, so why I should I even try?”. But thoughts like these can be extremely destructive to a relationship, because the helplessless it breeds stops the offending party from taking the actions required to heal and mend.
Tips for giving a genuine apology
If you want to make a heartfelt apology and make the offended person feel better, then try to stick to these tips.
- When you are sorry, mean it. F.W. de Klerk once said: “Deep regret goes further than just saying you are sorry. Deep regret says that if I could turn the clock back, and if I could do anything about it, I would have liked to have avoided it.” But before apologizing, recognize your fault and make the apology specific. For instance, say “I am sorry I ignored the conversation with you yesterday.” It’ll show that you really understand what you did wrong. So, always speak from the heart and make the apology sincere.
- Choose the timing carefully. A person might need time to heal wounds, but you shouldn’t let grievances take root in the heart. Speak up if you are sorry for something you’ve done, and let them know that you are ready to discuss it when they are.
- Take responsibility for your actions. Don’t be defensive and don’t look for excuses and explanations. The message, “I take responsibility for being angry and hurting you yesterday,” is coherent and direct. Forget about any “buts” in your speech.
- The manner is important. Make sure that your body language expresses what you feel. Always apologize in person, make eye contact, keep arms uncrossed, put away your phone and focus on the person. These clues will help show that you really do want to rebuild trust.
An apology cannot change what has been done, but it can help to ease the tension and relieve stress. Apologizing gives hope for rebuilding. If you value the relationship, then an honest apology can make the relationship go a long way.