Q: I hear “I’m sorry” in my house, but it often doesn’t feel genuine. Frankly it’s hard to believe. I’d think after getting an apology, I’d feel better, and more problems would be resolved. I’d appreciate your thoughts.
A: If you are questioning the sincerity of an apology, you might consider the components of a genuine “I’m sorry.” They include:
1. Acknowledgment of the complete infraction in specific terms while owning responsibility. This requires us to humble ourselves and relinquish pride – a huge hurdle but very healing. Example: “I worked on the project I was interested in instead of helping you as I said I would.”
2. The absence of blame on the other person or other things for the offender’s action. It doesn’t count to say: “Well you seemed busy, so I thought you wouldn’t mind.” Or, “The neighbor stopped over and was talking, I couldn’t help it.”
3. Expression of empathy for the person who has been hurt, clearly stating remorse for the suffering experienced. This means the offender understands and can describe just how it felt to have been hurt and that it bothers them. Example: “I’m sorry. I feel badly about this, because I know it hurts you. I understand you feel frustrated and devalued when I don’t take time to do the things that are important to you. ”
4. Repairing the damage with a fix and implementing a change for the future. “To make it up to you, I’m going to go with you tomorrow and help you to get that done. I’ll plan a block of time each week to do what you like, instead of spending the time on all of my activities.”
5. A commitment to not repeating the old behavior and discipline for maintaining the change.
Be open to receive a genuine apology. By doing so, you will restore trust and strengthen your relationships.
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Disclaimer: Responses to questions are not to be construed as receiving, and are not a substitute for, psychological services, or treatment.
Questions to Sophie is a new question and answer column addressing reflections on work, family, friendship and personal issues. Send your questions to the email address above or mail them to The Hamburg Area Item office. Please submit by the editorial deadline.
The column is by Suzanne Kline a practicing psychologist born and raised in the Hamburg area.