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Dearest Children of Mine,
Yesterday we talked about how to have a fair fight. Today, we'll talk about a critical component of fair and healthy conflict, and that's the apology. Please remember your goal in an argument isn't to prove yourself right, it's to gain deeper understanding about the other person while you resolve the conflict. Also, you must determine that you will do no further damage to the relationship because of things you say or do while in the heat of the argument.
There are two sides to an apology - giving and receiving. We'll talk about giving an apology first. While no one should be "grading" your apologies, here are the basic components of the kind of apology that can do the deepest healing.
Say "I'm sorry"
Just those two words and you're off to a great start.
Acknowledge their feelings
Imagine how the other person must have felt, and empathize with that. "What I said was hurtful", "My comment must have been embarrassing to you". This gives assurance to the other person that you understand the situation and have considered their perspective. Remember, the goal of an argument is greater intimacy. Learning what is hurtful to the other person strengthens the foundation of your relationship. In this case, knowledge is power to improve.
Your actions caused the other person harm, and when you own that, you convey to the other person that you value them. You can do this by saying "I was wrong" without offering excuses or defending your actions. Your apology is about them, and about their feelings, Whether or not your hurtful actions were intentional, the end result is the same: someone's feeling are hurt, and it's your responsibility. Take responsibility for that, and don't make excuses.
This is the most difficult and humbling part of an apology, because you are completely vulnerable to the other person. But this act of humility conveys trust that they will respond to your apology with mercy. It calls both of you to value the relationship over either of your feelings, and when you both step up to that, it can put you on the fast track to healing.
Now that we've covered giving an apology, let's consider how to receive an apology:
Make it safe
Offering an apology is putting yourself at the mercy of the other person. Honor them and your relationship by extending grace. And it will do you good to consider the Golden Rule here ... you will surely be on the giving side soon enough. Treat the other person the way you want to be treated. Furthermore, if you show the other person that you are likely to accept their apologies graciously, you will build trust, and it will be more likely that you'll get an apology next time it's your due.
Say thank you
It takes humility to say I'm sorry. Thank the other person for saying it. It means they value you.
Say the words
Listen to the apology, and then say the words: "I forgive you". Don't take another opportunity to tell them how wrong they were, it's time to let it go. Say "I forgive you" and then actively practice forgiveness every single time your heart wants to go over the offense again. Sometimes you have to remind yourself. Say it outloud to yourself in the mirror if you have to: "I've forgiven them for that. I'm letting it go and we're moving on."
A dichotomy exists here. If you're on the giving end of the apology, read the above and take those steps. If you're on the receiving end of an apology, please read on. The more you practice "good" apologies, the easier it gets. But we all have to start somewhere, and that means you may or may not be in a relationship with someone fluent in the art of apologizing. Sometimes, you have to let people say they're sorry the best way they can. That may mean accepting a casual "my bad" or a seemingly unrelated act of kindness in place of steps one through four above. Trust that the other person will become more adept at apologizing, and accept their apology in whatever form it comes.
To be in a relationship with another human being requires lots and lots of grace. Next, we'll talk about who needs that the most.
thanks for reading!