Have you ever had your feelings hurt by the words or actions of another? Sure you have—we all have. It’s part of the human experience. We’ve all endured the pain of someone saying or doing something unkind to us, or at least unkind according to our personal interpretations.
But have you noticed that if the offender, whether they’ve offended us on purpose or not, sincerely apologizes, we are more likely to forgive and move forward? As opposed to dwelling on hurt feelings and holding a grudge. Why? Because our feelings have been acknowledged and proven to matter, thus our ruffled feathers smoothed. We have been offered respect and empathy.
The apology must, as I’ve mentioned, be sincere and followed by an action to show sincerity, such as changing the offending behavior, or doing something kind to “make up for” what you’ve said or done.
Apologizing isn’t about offering lip service to mollify someone after you’ve done them wrong. There’s no power in that approach. Power comes about from acknowledging hurt feelings and taking action.
The apology is empowering for both the offended as well as the offender. For the offended, the apology can dissolve, or undo the negative effects of the harmful words or actions.
For the offender, having the courage to render an apology and admit wrong-doing can foster a deep sense of self-respect. It can also free us from the weight of self-reproach and guilt, even if the person we apologize to does not accept our apology or render forgiveness.
As I tell my children whenever they find themselves in a situation where they need to apologize, you aren’t responsible for how someone reacts to your apology or whether or not they accept it. You are only responsible for proffering the apology. The most important part of an apology is the giving and the sincerity.
According to an article by Beverly Engel in Psychology Today, an apology is crucial to our mental and physical health. “Research shows that receiving an apology has a noticeable, positive physical effect on the body,” Engel states. The person receiving the apology experiences a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate slows and breathing becomes steadier.
According to a Ted Talk given by Robert M. Gordon Ph.D., there are two types of apology, or two core reasons to offer one: to get something (such as forgiveness), and to give something (such as repair to a relationship).
Doctor Gordon also suggests there are three main elements to an effective apology:
1) Acknowledgement— Admit to the wrongdoing or transgression.
2) Remorse and Empathy—Express remorse and an understanding of how the offended person feels.
3) Restitution—Make up for the transgression. Do something to show true remorse. Take action such as exhibiting a change in behavior.
Bottom line, an apology sends a message of care and concern for the other person, further mollifying them. Even a simple ‘I’m sorry’ can be enough to defuse and restore balance to the relationship. So exhibit courage and strength, and don’t hesitate to apologize.