Apologies for Dummies

Posted: 2009/03/12 in Life, Musings, Relationships, Society
Tags: , , , ,

Many relationships fail simply because people lack the skills of relating. These days people seem to not  know how to properly apologize. Does it take a degree to do so? I don´t think so, but I do think we have a generation who take people and their feelings for granted. This is very close to me as recently I have an Ex whom on numerous occasion seem to  hurt me all the time and not understand why I don´t believe them. Since until now they are clueless, let me write Apology 101.

Is Apology really an Art?

Let’s face it. Most of us don´t know how to apologize. We compensate for our lack of knowledge and skill by making feeble attempts which rarely work. Some people rely on their good looks while others bat pathetic puppy dog eyes to get them out of scrapes. If we want to improve and have depth in our relationships, it’s time to learn the art of apology. So here is my take since this is a very personal pet peeve.

There are two reasons people apologize. First, people usually apologize to make themselves feel better. This type of apology requires little skill outside of being willing to admit that you made a mistake. The second type of apology relays a genuine concern for the other person’s feelings and well being. Guilt is relieved only when your apology is genuine and based on empathy for the injured person. This type of apology heals relationships and creates genuine bonds.

The “Feel Good” Apology

If you are apologizing to relieve your guilt, and hopefully get someone off your back, stop before you open your mouth. Relieve your guilt through talking to a good friend, therapist or priest. Tell someone who really cares about you. Don’t bother telling the person you have injured. You only make things worse!

Why? Because the person you injured doesn’t really care why you did something. They don’t want to hear that “kids are so mean” or “I was completely lost”. By laying out all of the reasons, and defenses, for why you injured them, you are subtly saying that it’s not your fault and that the other person should take care of you by telling you that “you’re OK”. You belittle them and humiliate yourself this way.

Here are some REAL Apologies to help illustrate what a “feel good” apology sounds like and what not to do:

“I am sorry I molested you. I was drinking a lot then.”

Most alcholics do not molest their children.

“I realize that I was a really bad father/mother. It’s not like you came with a book.”

There are thousands of parenting books. Amazon.com lists 3,484 + titles.

I realize that I was really cruel to you when we were kids. You know how kids are!”

Bullies act like bullies. Period.

“I am sorry I lied to you. I lie to everyone.”

If someone lies to everyone they can’t really say they are sorry.

“I am sorry you found out about my affair. I didn’t intend for you to find out.”

So it’s Ok to have an affair as long as the other person doesn’t find out?

“I am sorry but since we have not been together for 2 years why can we not be friends while I keep the other people (I cheated or hurt you with while we were engaged as a couple) as friends as well? But I really value and respect you the most.”

So, you respect me so much that you want to continue reminding me why we failed in our relationship?

Each of these “feel good” apologies were said to relieve the guilt of the person apologizing. There is no consideration for the feelings of the injured person.

If you find yourself in the middle of one of these apologies, SHUT UP! Take a deep breath and start over.

Humans do MAKE mistakes

Human beings make mistakes. Sure! It’s impossible not to make a mistake. Most people struggle to be present in their lives, let alone stay aware of every one else’s feelings at any given moment. In order to make a real apology, we must come to grips with the fact that we make mistakes. If you would like to have long term relationships, you must learn to make real apologies. That is a requirement!


The major difference between a “feel good” apology and real apology is that real apology begins and ends with the person you have injured where as the “feel good” apology is about the person who made the mistake.

My Ex seems to not understand this concept. I also do not like it when people apologize and expect forgiveness right away, without having to show for. If they want to be forgiven, then be truly sorry, leave the baggages at the garbage disposal. Don´t dangle everything that reminds me why you hurt me. Otherwise, you are not sorry!

So for the Clueless like my Ex and people who have this nasty habit, here are four steps to making real apology:

1. Acknowledge the injury.

It’s important to start by acknowledging that you have injured someone. A simple, “I know that I hurt your feelings”, can make a world of difference. Don´t just drop, “I am sorry.” Do you understand what you are saying at all? Mean what you say and say what you mean.

2. Ask the injured what it was like for them.

It’s important to understand in what way your mistake injured the other person. People are very different. The same mistake can injure people in a wide variety of ways. Taking the time to understand the manner in which you injured someone else increases empathy in your relationship. Ask what hurt.

Nothing is more frustrating than being told how you were hurt by someone who gets it wrong! Repeat back what you heard to make sure you did not miss anything. Open your ears and heart to hear the actual injury.

3. Apologize for the injury.

Be specific. Make sure to include all the ways that you injured the other person. A real apology might sound like: “I am sorry that I hurt your feelings and you felt stupid by ignoring you at dinner”.

FYI: Every real apology includes “I am sorry” for “specific injury” at “specific time”.

4. Ask the injured how you can make it better.

When we feel guilty we often desperately want to repair the relationship.

In our anxiety and fear of losing the relationship, we make up ways to repair the relationship. Stop working so hard. Ask the injured what you can do to regain their trust. Most people have a clear idea of what you can do to repair the relationship. Ask them and then DO IT.

In this case, I have told my Ex what needs to be done, but instead they argued with me about it and refused. The spirit of humility and sincerity is involved and much needed. Swallow that pride, especially if you truly love and care about the person. Arguing back to the injured is a violation of apology because it is about healing the injured, and not to please your Ego! It is ALL ABOUT THEM! Not you! You are not truly sorry. It was just a “feel good” but really cut short of the real apology. I am still hurting, but I don´t think I can have them around my life. So I opted to cut them completely out. Time will be my friend.

I know and believe that Apologies are the spine of all relationships. It is this fundamental truth that many people fail to do that has broken up many relationships. Few people know how to do it…and therefore few have succeeded in their relationships.

Imagine if we all practice this with sincerity and honesty. Imagine what type of world we would be living in now.

As per December 2009, I wrote my Ex a message and told them I am fine. I know per today (2011) I can talk to them civily, but I still stand on my principles of not having them as a friend. They were not much of that. So moving on with my life and heart is the best option.

  1. Kathie says:

    You now are getting it Peanut. If one truly wishes to apologize and make amends, they will do whatever it takes to make YOU feel better. We can keep giving people chances only to be smacked down again. Don’t lose faith in people..just know the difference between a real apology and truth. Some people are incapable of holding these traits. It is: Love, Honesty, Loyalty, and caring about someone more than yourself.

  2. Kathie says:

    Not one more tear shed for the ungrateful! Do not waste them on the undeserving!

  3. Dave Lucas says:

    Very nice post, MJ! Thank-you!

  4. Very good post, MJ..so very true!! ❤

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