How to Apologize?

So, you want to know how to apologize? This means you want to repair what you have broken, to heal what you have hurt and to go back to the way it was before you messed up, right?

The right attitude

If you really want to apologize, your desire to repair and to heal must be greater than your urge to protect yourself and your ego. To understand how the ego works, read What is self-esteem? If you are afraid of opening up and of being vulnerable, it won’t work.

Sometimes, we intend to say “I am sorry,” but we really mean “I am sorry I got caught” or “I am sorry I have to apologize.” Such an apology is a waste of time. I know because I have been there! Be humble and the rest will come easier.

Put yourself in their shoes

Once you have the right attitude, the first and most important part of learning how to apologize is to put yourself entirely in the other person’s shoes. You have to forget your own arguments and reasons. Saying “if I were you, I would have acted differently” doesn’t make sense because if I were you, I would have your own personality and would have lived your own experience, so I would have acted like you did in the first place!

Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes means seeing things their way, which may be the opposite problem of yours, the opposite sex, or just a person having to put up with you!

Once you honestly see the situation from their unique perspective, you can really feel empathy and describe to them the situation the way they see it. By showing that you understand, you are already going a long way in patching things up, but this is not enough: you have to show your feelings.

Show remorse

It is important to show remorse, to let the person you have hurt see you are really sorry. I remember feeling remorse but, ashamed to realize how much I had hurt my partner, I felt so bad for him that I had difficulty expressing it. It was a mistake. You have to show you are sorry any way you can with your words, voice, gestures, tears, supplications, whatever... Just express your feelings of repentance.

Make sure you are expressing true feelings though, instead of playing a part expected from you. An apology during which you are playing the victim, putting yourself down and, in a way, taking pleasure in beating yourself up is dishonest. You are too focused on your ego and are distancing yourself from the situation at hand. Be sincere, not dramatic.

The future

Once you have empathized and shown remorse, you have to think of the future: why would this person want to go back to the way things were and run the risk of being hurt by you again? Something has to change.

A promise like “I won’t do it again” won’t do! You have to take a definite step that will ensure a different future, and the promise has to be confirmed. For instance, instead of swearing “I’ll stop drinking,” it will be better to ask “Can you please help me find a rehab center?” Then, you will genuinely show you are serious about healing and repairing what you have broken. Of course, you have to follow up on your promise as soon as possible.

How to apologize, in brief

Let’s recap the process on how to apologize:

1. Put yourself in the other’s shoes and describe how he or she was hurt by you.
2. Show real remorse and express your true feelings.
3. Explain what you are going to do differently to minimize the risk of it happening again.

Being completely honest and following those steps in your apology won’t necessarily guarantee forgiveness, even though chances are you will be absolved. But your sincerity and desire to heal and repair will increase your self-esteem and self-respect, so you can look forward to the future.

Never ruin an apology with an excuse
Kimberly Johnson

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