- You let a person know that you’re taking accountability for your actions.
- You can reopen the lines of communication and move forward in repairing.
- Both parties can have a sense of relief and a reduction of stress.
When you should?
If you’re aware that something you did has caused another person pain, an apology is normally in order. Your intention may not have been to the hurt the person, but the reality is that you have and it’s important to take ownership for that. Apologizing opens up the line of communication and will ultimately give you the opportunity to express that your intent was not to be hurtful. Letting a person know that you feel bad that you have caused them pain, let’s them know that you actually care about their feelings. This creates an atmosphere of trust and safety, which allows for more open conversations in the future. Take the time after an apology to start discussing boundaries. Often times the original offense is a result of a lack of clear boundaries.
Things to avoid
You should avoid apologizing in order to get the other person to stop talking about the offense. This usually comes off as insincere and often compounds the problem. Avoid, dodging responsibility in your apology. For example, “I’m sorry if you feel” places the blame back on the other person and can invalidate their feelings. One of the biggest mistakes people make when apologizing is incorporating a promise with it. Telling someone “I’m sorry, I promise this won’t happen again” sounds good but what happens if you do it again? You’ve essentially made a promise you couldn’t keep and established a pattern of being hurtful.
One of the biggest obstacles people face when issuing apologies is an admission of guilt. Some people believe that apologizing is synonymous with taking responsibility for the entire conflict instead of their particular role in it. Another obstacle people have is that an apology often draws focus on a mistake they’ve made, which can be an uncomfortable feeling for some.
This Topic of the Week was written by Malyka Cardwell, MFT.