Do you know someone who says they’re sorry, but never changes? Or maybe a person apologizes, but always has a justification for their actions. Some people don’t apologize or apologize incorrectly, while others freely acknowledge their mistakes without any desire or intention of changing. It is not easy to admit our mistakes and flaws openly, but it is even harder to make changes in our behaviors. Maybe pride, fear, or insecurity get in the way of an apology, but what prevents change? It may those same emotions or it may have more to do with procrastination, letting go of control, and learning new skills and habits. Sometimes we haven’t fully committed to change and apologize only to appease the other person.
Regardless of our reasons for avoiding an apology, we need to recognize the importance of a change in behavior. Actions do speak louder than words and a commitment to behave differently can make all the difference. A comprehensive apology that includes acceptance of responsibility, acknowledgement of harm, request of forgiveness, an effort to change, and a desire to repair the relationship will likely be well received. And remember that we can apologize when we’ve hurt another person even if we don’t fully understand their feelings. We all own our feelings and we can’t tell others what to feel or not feel. Avoid using the line “I didn’t intend to hurt your feelings.” Most of the time this statement is true, but it doesn’t negate the hurt feelings or absolve us of personal responsibility.
We hurt people verbally and emotionally all the time. We are human! Hopefully when someone acknowledges their hurt we can handle it constructively without defensiveness or justification. Instead we can accept blame, show remorse, apologize genuinely, and offer to make changes for the future. Two tips to remember when apologizing: avoid following the apology with the word “but” since that negates your apology, and don’t say “I’m sorry your feelings were hurt,” since that implies that the other person is too sensitive. Stay focused on the situation at hand and don’t bring up any slights made by the person who was hurt. Often we are better at apologizing to strangers than our own family. The people who need it the most are the ones you are closest to and have the greatest connection with. An apology and acknowledgment of wrongdoing, along with a sincere desire to change can take courage, but it can also grow and deepen your relationships.