Anyone Can Say Sorry

A good apology has 3 parts.Saying sorry – that’s the easy part – what comes next is what really matters

This past week I had an instructor show up 45 min late for a course that she was supposed to teach.

I was very mad and I needed to see that she would do what she could to rebuild trust and make things right, so that I knew that I could rely on her and that she would make amends in a way that worked for both of us.

Now for some people even to say sorry is a huge deal; they didn’t grow up using the term, things were just shoved things under the carpet and no one took responsibility, apologized, never mind made amends.

When we mess up, apologizing is important, but it’s still missing the most important piece of the equation which is making amends.

Making amends rebuilds trust and can help to rebuild a relationship that would otherwise quickly deteriorate with a simple ‘sorry’.

When we make a mistake, accidently or intentionally, there’s damage done, perhaps to a piece of property or a relationship that requires fixing.

When we damage a piece of property we tend to be better at compensating and making the necessary repairs.

Think of the last time you were in a car accident, if the person waved out the window, saying “Sorry I smashed into your car – hope you have a great day!” and drove away – you’d get their licence plate number and they would be charged for leaving the scene of an accident. They’re forced by the law to make amends – that’s why we have insurance.

In relationships it’s not always clear as to how to make amends – it’s vital, however, to do so in order rebuild trust and create a thriving and healthy relationship.

There’s no one size fits all approach, but there are some must haves:

  1. Say Sorry, even if you think you’re only 20% in the wrong, saying sorry for your part shows that you see that you messed up too and creates a greater likelihood for a positive outcome and a win/win situation. In the end we are responsible for our actions regardless of what’s happened to us.
  2. Take full responsibility for your role in the current situation – which could look like “I’m sorry I lost my temper when you were late today”Real apologies are about ownership not placing more blame on the other.An ineffective apology, which does nothing to rebuild connection or restore harmony in the relationship, might go like this “I’m sorry I blew up, it wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t late all the time” or my very favourite is when someone has done something and they say “I’m sorry you feel that way”.That’s a cheap shot, you can’t apologize for someone else’s feelings – they’re feelings, they can feel any way they want. Saying something like that can diminish another’s feelings and create defensiveness.

    A better way to word that is “I can see how upset this has made you, I’m sorry for my part in this situation”

    We are responsible for our actions despite what happens to us – take ownership.

  3. Make amends – This is so often over looked and is one of the crucial pieces and that’s making up for the wrong doing. If you don’t know how and it’s not clear as in physical damage to property – you ask the other party.“What can I do to make this up to you?”Then work specifically as to what can be done to make things right.

In the case of my instructor she said sorry, told me what change in behaviour she was committed to moving forward, gave me a discount on her instructor fee and she texted me the next day saying she was all ready to go well before the class started.

We all mess up, we are all deeply flawed and yet for the most part doing our best. Be kind to yourself and when you do screw up, say sorry, take responsibility and do what you can to make amends.

Imagine if everyone did their part – what a better place the world would be.

Leona deVinne