Are you the type of person that never apologizes? Or do you find yourself apologizing all the time? Researchers have found that we apologize more to strangers than to our significant other and family, and most to our friends. So why do couples have such a difficult time saying they are sorry? Sometimes couples have too much pride and want to win the battle, in spite of losing the war. In some cases, people fear apologizing because it makes them feel vulnerable and opens them up for possible emotional pain. Control can be another factor in withholding an apology since some feel it weakens their position and power. Men are less inclined to apologize unless they are convinced they’ve done something wrong while women offer apologies more readily.
Are there different types of apology? An article written in the Wall Street Journal by Elizabeth Bernstein describes six different types of apology with different levels of sincerity. The most insincere one is the bully apology which manipulates the other person into some action and offers a band-aid for the offender’s bad behavior. Then there is the too-late apology which comes days, months, or years later. The contingent apology attempts to appease the other person, but fails to acknowledge or care what the misdeed was. The defensive apology is the self-protective strategy whereby you justify your actions with the right words then use the qualifier “but”. The strategic apology is offered up to stop the fight and quickly move on. Lastly, the most sincere apology is the heartfelt one that accepts responsibility, regrets ones own actions, and understands the pain it caused the other person.
A genuine apology can go a long way in the healing of a conflict. In most situations both parties have reason to offer an apology. A sincere, comprehensive apology is more likely to produce forgiveness. Ideally this apology includes remorse, acceptance of responsibility, admission of wrongdoing, acknowledgement of harm, promise to behave better, request for forgiveness, offer of repair, and explanation according to researchers from the University of Waterloo. Of course including all of these components into an apology may seem overwhelming. The most important aspects are remorse, acceptance, acknowledgement, and an effort for behavioral change. It is difficult to accept an apology when the behavior never changes and/or the offender doesn’t get the impact their behavior has had on the other person. Lastly, a word of caution. If a person is genuinely attempting to apologize avoid throwing in other wrongdoings and accept their imperfect attempts since it’s better than none at all.