Many of us have had relationships we wish we could mend but just don’t know where to start. Most disagreements stem from hurt feelings and misunderstandings so they can be fixed if you want to.
• Husbands and wives separate because of words spoken too harshly.
• Siblings never speak again because parents seem to “favor” one over the other.
• Neighbors build higher fences because one child gets shoved during street ball.
• Churches split and members divide because of one vote in a business meeting.
• Co-workers live in reserved silence in the workplace because of a slight.
It is not easy to apologize, that’s why so many fail to do so. And it’s especially hard to say “I’m sorry” when you’re not the person in the wrong. But if you want to resolve the issue and get past the stress of carrying around a past hurt, you can do it.
First things first, you have to be willing to apologize.
“But I did nothing wrong. They should apologize to me.”
-If this is your answer, you’re not ready to mend the relationship. Even if you’re not at fault, you can still apologize and feel good about it.
“I just want to get past the hurt and get back to being friends.” That’s good news!
Secondly, is the other person ready?
It does take two to communicate so it matters if the other person is ready to rebuild or agree on a truce.
-Can you get the other individual to talk to you for five minutes?
-Will they allow you to verbalize your thoughts?
-Are they at least willing to listen?
If so, then you have a good chance at starting over. If not, give it more time.
Think about what you’re going to say. This is not the time for retrospect; so you have to formulate your thoughts and be very careful not to delve in to the past and get off the topic at hand. You’ve played the conversation in your head millions of times so it’s now time to get to work.
5 Simple Steps
Step 1: Make it clear that you’re apologizing by asking for the time to do so. Call it what it is, an apology. Let the other party know that you are extending a “proverbial” hand to rebuild the relationship.
“Do you have a few moments? I want to apologize to you.”
“Can we talk? I want to apologize to you.”
“Will you hear me out? I want to apologize to you.”
Step 2: Say what you appreciate about the person; even if it’s no more than their time. Give a complement before you express your feelings. This will make them less defensive and more receptive to hear what else you have to say.
“I appreciate you taking the time to hear me out…”
“Thank you for keeping the kids while I went walking…”
“I have enjoyed our friendship for the last twelve years…”
“I appreciate you being on my team, you are a hard worker…”
Step 3: Express your feelings using “I feel” and not “when you”. Don’t place blame. Focus on the action and the feelings and not who caused the injury.
“I feel ignored when you spend so much time in the den watching television…”
“I felt left out when you didn’t invite me to lunch with you…”
“I felt I was misunderstood when I received your letter…”
At this point, the other person may reply or began to express their feelings. Let them. Hear them out and make sure not to give a rebuttal or interrupt. It takes two to argue, as well as two to communicate. One to talk, one to listen. If you’re not taking you’re listening. You can’t do both at the same time.
Step 4: Simply state the actions and results. Keep in mind not to be accusatory. Let’s continue with our previous examples.
“I feel ignored when you spend so much time in the den watching television. It leaves me and the kids alone most of the time in the rest of the house.”
“I felt left out when you didn’t invite me to lunch with you. I was expecting to go out to lunch so I didn’t bring anything to eat.”
“I felt I was misunderstood when I received your letter. I wanted to visit with you and the family when I come in September because I will be out of the country for the holidays.”
Pause for 3 seconds. This is so you can collect your thoughts and give the other person a chance to “hear” what you are saying. And also to make sure they are done expressing themselves. Rushing the apology makes it seem false and insincere.
Step 5: Ask for forgiveness. You have to ask for forgiveness as the final step. Don’t go back and continue to explain at this point on why you should be forgiven. Just ask and leave it at that. Making this the final step shows your willingness to let go of past hurt and start over.
“Will you forgive me?”
“Will you accept my apology?”
“Can we start over?” or “Are we friends again?” will also work.
Now if the other person refuses to forgive at this point, acknowledge their feelings and accept their unwillingness to forgive. Take comfort in knowing you extended the “olive branch”, that’s what is required of us.
If the apology is accepted, just a simple “thank you” will suffice. You are now ready to move forward.
You know you are developing your personality and growing in maturity when you can apologize. It takes practice so start with small indiscretions and it will get easier every time you try. It’s what we need, more people who are willing to try.