Have you ever said something and immediately wished you could take the words back? Did you do something that backfired? Even if you have fantastic social skills, odds are you've put your foot in your mouth a few times and need to apologize. But apologizing can be tricky. How do you smooth the troubled waters?
You know it's time to say you're sorry when:
you get that funny feeling in your stomach.
you see the look on someone's face, or hear surprise, sadness or anger in their voice.
your conscience bothers you (and maybe you can't even pinpoint why).
We feel the need to apologize because we feel we've done something insensitive, something that goes against the values we hold, or the values we believe others hold. For adults, it can be the judgmental or thoughtless statement that erodes trust. For children, it can be the look on your face, or it may come down to avoiding a consequence; however, there is usually an understanding that they've done something wrong, something contrary to the norms of the people around them. They want our love and approval, and so they apologize.
Someone has taken offense, their self-esteem has taken a blow, or you’re feeling uncomfortable with what’s going on. Why apologize?
You are a considerate, empathetic person. You feel badly for causing pain to another, and regret your action.
It’s time to restore the now troubled relationship. Whether a family member, friend or co-worker, a sincere apology will soothe everyone’s soul.
You recognize that you’ve violated one of your own principles and feel out of integrity.
Taking responsibility for your actions is an imperative for you.
Many people are uncomfortable with saying “I’m sorry”, seeing it as a sign of weakness. Parents may overuse it (wanting to ease their child’s pain, or to avoid rejection) or underuse it (needing to be in control, the authority figure). It’s a skill that takes some finessing.
How do you even broach making the apology? You take advantage of ‘the do-over’, of course. When both sides are calm, you revisit the event and say what needs to be said. This may take some courage, and a dose of humility.
It’s not easy to admit you’re wrong, or have unintentionally hurt someone’s feelings… but on the other side lay understanding, healing and connection. And connection is most definitely what it’s all about.
Fern Weis is a parent coach, specializing in supporting parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations (including underachieving, disrespectful behavior, addiction recovery and more). With parent-centered coaching, Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life’s challenges. Learn more about coaching and workshops at www.fernweis.com. And while you’re there, download a free report, “Five Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk.”