How To Say Sorry
All it takes are the three little words: “I am sorry.” These simple, yet powerful words can have the biggest impact on another human and your relationship with them. But so many of us don’t know how to say it or we find it hard to say! So I am here to help you say the words in a way that best help the other person hear them!
Have a conversation with your partner before an apology is needed around what your partner feels a sincere apology looks like. Just like with love languages, people hear “I am sorry” in different ways. So use this conversation to ask your partner what they need from you to truly hear I am sorry and then when moments arise that require those three words to be said, you are armed and ready to express it to your partner how THEY need it said or done. When the need for an apology arises in your relationship first remember that an apology is a time to see the experience through your partner’s eyes and this means putting your own story aside. Remove defensiveness and equivocation and take ownership for your part.
Some suggestions to help this process:
Explain the error by acknowledging your understanding of why you hurt the other person
Share understanding of how your partner could have felt hurt from what you said or did and acknowledge that you have hurt your partner
Always make sure you use a sincere a heartfelt tone of voice
Use empathy to express your apology
An apology never includes any “buts” or explanations.
Remember you have left your world and you are visiting and sitting in your partner’s world now, so to speak!
What to do after an apology:
I would always suggest that first and foremost we all try our best to not hurt others around us. However, we are all human. Which means that sometimes in the moment we can slip up in one way or another and negatively impact the other person. This is ok, but what needs to follow these moments is an appropriate repair conversation which includes a sincere apology. After you have apologised you can talk about the next steps with your partner. For example, you might say “I really want to work on being a better communicator with you” if you have had a misunderstanding about something you thought you communicated. Ask for your partner to forgive you and remember to stay humble once you have. It is important both during and after an apology to choose your words carefully because they matter a lot in these moments.
Even after a sincere apology your partner might need time and space to process. Keep in mind that just because you apologised it does not mean that you can demand connection with your partner. The apology was for them, it was not a quid pro quo.
So now that we have taken a look at how to say I am sorry, let's have a little look at how NOT to say I am sorry.
Do not make any excuses.
Do not put blame on others
Do not deny what happened
Do not dismiss your partners feelings
Do not justify
Do not say “I am sorry” in an insincere way.
Now this last point is extra important! Because let’s be honest, sometimes it is difficult for us to sincerely apologise! I am not saying that hurting your partner was intentional, and you might even surprise your self with what you said or did to hurt your partner. This could be because there is not always a clear right or wrong. There are different ways of seeing and doing this in life. Just remember amongst your desire to remain innocent in your partner’s eyes, people tend to revert to defending why they said or did something hurtful. Potentially you grew up in a household with a lot of criticism which tends to make people feel like they are not quite good enough. Sometimes we feel like our partner unjustly accused us and it leads us to feel slighted! As a result you might be taken over by a need to be right and win the battle! Rather than being deeply connected and vulnerable in your relationship.
I want to remind you that becoming a mature partner is in fact an inside job! If you have acted in a way that is not loving or nurturing to your partner you need to forgive yourself. It is an ever repeating awareness that healthy shame is allowed if we feel grounded in our own ok-ness. It is important to know you are loveable even if you feel bad for what you have done or said. As long as we express empathy with our apology and we are open to truly hearing our partner.
A wonderfully healthy and connected relationship trades in the currency of sincere and empathetic apologies. This relationship will bring you the world if instead of wanting to be right you act from a place of wanting to be valuable to your partner.
If you are struggling with apologising and healing your relationship, we are here to help! Reach out to the team at Better Together Relationships today.