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Do not ruin an apology with an excuse

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

It is amazing how much difference such a short phrase can make in resolving conflict. How sad, then, when often it is unsaid and the conflict continues.

Some barriers to saying sorry are…

Pride. Saying sorry means admitting mistakes and showing vulnerability. Some people find this difficult to do so they never say these words as they would never want to display any signs of “weakness”.

Blame. “Why should I say sorry. It’s all their fault.” or “they had it coming anyway.” It’s easier to see other peoples’ faults rather than look at how we participated in the conflict.

Avoiding emotions. Some people avoid saying sorry as it could evoke emotions in the other person. They feel uncomfortable and unable to respond to someone showing emotions and maybe even crying. They may also want to avoid running the risk of being emotional themselves.

Not understanding the power of this phrase. Sometimes we underestimate the power of sincerely saying sorry.

Some tips on saying sorry

..Make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons, i.e. restoring a relationship and not trying to ‘get’ something.

..Make sure that you mean it and know exactly what you are apologising for. “I am sorry that I have not been the best husband” is not specific enough.

..Realise that your apology may not be accepted by the person now, in the near future or ever.

..Don’t try to explain away or rationalise your mistake. Just admit it and ask for forgiveness.

..Say the words at an appropriate time when you have the person’s full attention and there is a good level of privacy.

..Ask the person if they can see themselves forgiving you. Often when we apologise to others their response minimises the situation. eg “Oh I haven’t even given it a second thought”, when in reality they have been stewing on it for the past three weeks. If they can’t say words like “I forgive you” then maybe they haven’t fully processed and accepted your apology.

Reprinted from Leadership and Life by Actuate Consulting – used with permission

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