There are a few things that make humans unique in the animal kingdom. Our ability to form relationships features prominently in the list.
We can go on and on about the benefits of building and maintaining healthy relationships. From reduced stress levels, better physical health, and longer life to improved behavior and rising to realize the potential, healthy relationships can do a world of good.
Just like anything else, it also comes with its own catches. If you are not careful, relationships can become minefields. One misstep and there you go.
Not to add to your stress levels, it can be said that you cannot afford to make mistakes in relationships. At least certain kinds of mistakes in certain types of relationships. You should be able to gauge the kind of freedom you have in a relationship.
In case you made an error of judgment and did or said something unforgivable, you need to act fast and rectify the mistake without losing time. Of course, time is of the essence here. If you allow the mistakes to remain as such without making amends, no need to say that you are making it worse.
You may have excuses for your inaction. You may be confused as to what is the right thing to do. How to make amends without messing it up more?
This article takes you through the possible steps you can take to make it right in the relationship after you seriously hurt someone you deeply care about.
Do you need to apologize?
Just because the other person is hurt doesn’t mean you always need to apologize. There are certain things for which you absolutely don’t need to apologize. Maybe you can or need to say something else but no apologies.
Such as asking a question, desiring some “me time”, not responding to calls or texts immediately, or circumstances not in your control. You also need not apologize for your appearance, your feelings, or the behavior of others.
Saying sorry for things you need not apologize not just weaken you and strengthen the feeling of low self-esteem and lack of confidence, it belittles the action of apologizing. It offers others the impression that you are not capable or intelligent.
You need to apologize only if you have done something you know to be wrong or violated rules. Then apology is necessary to repair the bond that was harmed and broken by your action, whether you did it intentionally or unintentionally.
What do you achieve with an apology?
With a sincere apology you can:
- Acknowledge your wrongdoing
- Let the other person know about your regret and repentance
- Reveal the fact that you have learned from your mistakes
- You are mature to accept your mistakes
- You now know how to better deal with similar situations
- Establish a communication channel with this person
- Discuss and clarify the boundaries of the relationship
By sincerely apologizing, you can get over the feeling of guilt and experience relief. Most times apologies won’t wipe away the hurt caused by your actions but when you own up your mistake and promised not to repeat it, you can make it more bearable and acceptable.
Why are apologies important?
An apology is not part of social etiquette. It is an important social custom to show respect and empathy for the wronged person and the hurt feelings. By not offering an apology, you are showing disrespect to the person.
- The act of apologizing shows that you care about the feelings of the other person.
- It shows that you are capable of owning responsibility for your actions.
- It clears the air.
- It can calm the other person down and soothes the anger.
- With the act of apologizing, you are validating their hurt feelings and perceptions.
How to apologize to someone?
How to apologize properly? This is a question that haunts someone who has wronged another person. By doing it right, you can reset the relationship. On the other hand, another wrong move on your part can worsen the situation and even break the relationship.
So, let’s see ways to properly apologize.
1. Know the right time to render your apology
Getting the timing right is as important as how you are framing your apology. If you accept your mistakes, offer your apology immediately without making matters worse.
If you are not so sure of your “part’ in the mistake, maybe you should take the lead to initiate a discussion. If you feel convinced about your misstep, apologize without further delay.
2. Own up your mistakes
One of the vital aspects of an apology is to take responsibility for your mistakes. Don’t pass on the responsibility of the strained relationship to the other person by saying, “I am sorry if what I said offended you”. This is one of the worst forms of apology.
By saying this, you are implying that the hurt feelings are merely a reaction of the other person and you are in no way responsible for that. But you are being magnanimous and rendering an apology.
Instead try saying, “I didn’t realize how much my words/actions could hurt you. I’m sorry.”
3. Show regret and remorse
For your apology to be sincere and effective, you should express regret. You should let the other person know that you feel bad about hurting them and you sincerely wish that you hadn’t.
When you reveal to the other person that you feel bad about the incident, it can calm them down. They were already feeling bad and knowing that you too are feeling the same way can make a huge difference to the situation.
Express remorse with sincere apologies. Examples:
- “Wish I could take it back.”
- “Wish I knew better.”
- “Wish I had considered your feelings earlier.”
4. Make amends
If you can do anything to make the person feel better or repair any damage, offer to do that. Mere words don’t suffice. The real apologies are the ones supported by a willingness to take remedial action.
Ways you can offer to make amends:
- “Can I replace it?”
- “I have learned my lesson. I will not repeat this mistake.”
- “I will try to think before I speak next time.”
- “How can I regain your trust?”
5. Clarify and confirm the boundaries
Maybe you overstepped your boundaries and hurt your partner’s feelings since you were unclear about them in the first place. Use this occasion to gain a better understanding of the boundaries through discussions.
When two individuals raised in different backgrounds come together to form a relationship, conflicts like this are common. The best way to avoid them is through open discussion. What is allowed and what isn’t needs to be clarified.
6. Choose how you are apologizing
Saying sorry is best done in person verbally. When this is not possible or adequate, you can take the help of the written word to render your apology. Write a letter, email, or message. However, don’t resort to this method because you are embarrassed or feeling uncomfortable about apologizing in person.
What you should not do when apologizing?
Even when you need to apologize and offer your apologies, you should avoid certain things.
- Own up your part of the mistake and not theirs.
- Back up your apologies with the right reasons.
- Don’t expect to be forgiven always. If you are not, learn to let it go.
When you choose not to apologize for your mistakes, you will end up damaging the relationship. When this kind of act is repeated, it can lead to anger, resentment, and hostility. It can lead to permanent damage and breakup.
On most occasions, people do not apologize not because they are not concerned about the hurt caused or the feelings of the other person but because of their own self-image and ego. On rare occasions, apologies are not given because the aggressor believes that it won’t do any good.