Why It’s So Hard To Apologize: The 6 Steps To Give A Heartfelt Apology
I used to think that people who wouldn’t apologize or admit they were wrong, were just being difficult. I thought they were choosing to not acknowledge my feelings and how their actions affected me. Or that they didn’t even care.
I used to take it personally like I wasn’t worth apologizing to, I realized it’s much deeper than me.
The reasons we choose to give apologies are normally because:
- They deserve an apology.
- To rid ourselves of guilt, or get forgiveness.
The reasons we don’t give apologies are more complex.
Why Is It So Hard?
Getting some people to admit they were wrong is like pulling teeth.
It takes a level of vulnerability to apologize. Admitting you were wrong means you are letting down your walls and for some, that’s really threatening.
They’d rather deal with the guilt of what they did than open up the floodgates of all the other uncomfortable emotions. This is an internal struggle for them, it doesn’t mean that they don’t owe you an apology or that they think what they did was right.
Fear is stopping them from apologizing, and the blowback of what happens because of this is worth them not feeling uncomfortable.
They are prioritizing their comfort over your discomfort.
They view it as an attack on their character.
If they admit they were wrong or what they did was bad, it means they are now a bad person. They can’t separate the action from themselves.
Parents have a hard time with this one. They view apologizing to their child about their wrongdoing, as the same as admitting they were a bad parent.
They don’t want to get blamed for more
If they admit they were wrong once, then you will blame them for everything.
What do I do when someone doesn’t apologize?
I wish I had an answer for this, I struggle with this in almost all of my relationships. It’s a hard spot to be in.
If you want to master the art of apologies make sure you hit these 6 steps:
1. Start By Saying You Are Sorry
An apology is an acknowledgment of your actions and your understanding of how they affected someone else. If you don’t even bother with apologizing, then there is no acknowledgment or accountability being taken.
Just letting time pass is not an apology.
Even if someone has moved on and forgiven you without an apology, it doesn't mean that you shouldn’t have given one. This breeds resentment and will eventually put a strain on your relationship.
2. Leave The “Butt” Out Of It
Saying ‘I’m sorry but…”, is a way of apologizing without holding yourself responsible. It says it’s your fault, not mine.
It’s okay to feel as if you are not the only one to blame, but you are not apologizing for the whole situation. Just your part in it.
3. Watch Your Tone And Body Language
Words mean nothing if they're paired with crossed arms and an eye roll.
I always think of little kids who are forced to give an apology. Or when siblings are begrudgingly giving each other an apology. The only reason they are doing it is to appease their parent who is across the room watching them.
Over 90% of how we communicate is through body language and tone, so when it doesn’t match our words. Our words mean nothing.
4. Make Sure You Mean It
Don’t be a serial apologizer, trust me I know this one I’m Canadian.
I’ve given apologies I didn’t mean, mostly to just get out of a situation.
We tend to throw around apologies to defuse the situation or to avoid any type of confrontation. Especially if you’re conflict-averse. When we say sorry as an answer to everything it dilutes the value of our apologies.
5. Take Accountability
When we don’t take accountability, our actions kind of just sit there festering in the air. It turns into the elephant in the room that no one is talking about.
Taking accountability for your actions is the fastest way to get someone to forgive you, but it’s often the most resisted. You need to be vulnerable to admit that what you did was wrong.
6. Follow It With Changed Behavior
Without changed behavior, your apology is essentially worthless.
You are telling this person:
Okay, I understand what I did was wrong, but I will continue to do it anyway because I don’t care.
I am going to say sorry to get out of the situation, then continue doing the same thing because I don’t think I’m wrong.
Either way, an apology without change is just manipulation.
6 Steps to an apology
2. Leave the ‘but’ out of it
3. Watch your tone and language
4. Mean it
5. Take accountability
6. Follow with changed behavior