People tend to view an apology as a sign of weakness of character; actually it requires great strength. Offering a genuine apology and having it accepted is one of the most profound interactions of civilized people. An apology is a powerful tool to restore damaged relationships between two people or a group of people, even nations. If done correctly it can heal humiliation and generate forgiveness.
Unfortunately we give little thought to teaching our children how to apologize and most of us have never learned to do it the right way.
Despite its importance, apologizing is contradictory to the ever-pervasive values about winning, success, and perfection. A successful apology requires the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, as well as the security and strength to admit your fault, failure, and weakness.
The most common reason to apologize is because you offended someone. Whether you have ignored, criticized, betrayed, or publicly humiliated someone, the bottom line is that you have diminished or injured a person’s self-concept—your thoughts and feelings about who you are, like to be or be perceived by others.
People who apologize always have a reason to do so.
You may want to restore the relationship because you have hurt someone you love or enjoy. An apology may well renew this troubled relationship.
You may want to apologize to escape punishment, such as the criminal who apologizes to his victim in exchange for a lesser sentence or be relieved of a guilty conscience.
Whatever the reason, what makes an apology valid is the exchange of shame and power between the offender and the offended.
When apologizing, you take the shame and redirect it to yourself. You admit hurting someone and say you are really the one at fault, the one who was wrong and insensitive. In acknowledging your mistake you give the offended the power to forgive. This exchange is at the heart of the healing process.
Apologizing, it’s not as easy as it sounds since there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.
First, you have to acknowledge the relationship was violated and you have to accept responsibility specifying what happened, e.g., “I betrayed you by talking behind your back or lying, etc. ”
You must show you understand the nature of your wrongdoing and the impact it had on the person, “I know I hurt you and I am so very sorry.”
By acknowledging that a moral norm was violated, both people/group affirm a similar set of values. An apology re-establishes a common moral ground.
Secondly, it provides an explanation for why you committed the offence in the first place and is not a representation of who you are. You may mention you were disappointed, depressed, upset and that it will not happen again. This type of explanation protects your self-concept.
The most important is that YOU remember to live every day as if it is the last time you see the person you just talked to, thus ensuring you will never regrets your words or actions. This person you just hurt could have an heart attack or and accident a few minutes later, the sky is the limit.
Bottom line – Do you want to live the rest of your life with the consequence of your words and actions? Think seriously about it now and consider who would be the miserable one. Only you have the answer if you bother listening to you inner voice who acts as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of your own behaviour.
You are what you do.