We’ve all been there. Everything seems to be going fine in our relationships and all of a sudden, it happens. A misunderstanding, an insensitive word or gesture. An outburst, or even betrayal. What do we do now?
Apologizing when you’ve wronged someone seems simple enough, but for many, it can be complicated. Here are some helpful steps to keep in mind when you’ve found yourself in this space:
- Put yourself in their shoes – Stop and try to imagine how they may be feeling. If you’re having trouble with this, keep in mind that different things make different people tick (or wound). What may not bother you, may bother someone else. Remain sensitive to our unique differences.
- Let them express their viewpoint and feelings without judgment – Allow them to express how they feel in full honesty. Even if you don’t agree or see things differently, only they can speak on their perception of the situation and listening validates our need to feel heard.
- Consider the depth and value of the relationship – If you’re debating on whether or not you should apologize, consider who the person is to you as motivation. Is it your spouse? A parent? A colleague? A friend? Consider your apology as you give it, keeping in mind who that person is to you (and their importance to you). If it is a close friend or relative, being too casual or seemingly uncaring about a heavy offense can come across as if you don’t care or the relationship isn’t important.
- Apologize even if it isn’t received. You are doing it because it’s the right thing to do – Apologizing isn’t so much about demanding that someone accept and move past the issue on the spot, as it is about you acknowledging that something you said or did hurt or offended another person. Take responsibility for your part. How or if it is received is for the other person to deal with.
- Be genuine and empathetic – Nothing can be more damaging to a relationship than for someone to slight someone else, and then be apathetic, forced, or uncaring while apologizing. Be sincere and be genuine when apologizing. We all make mistakes.
- (*Bonus) Act Quickly – Time may or may not heal all wounds. When it comes to apologizing, it’s always a good idea to not let too much time go by before acknowledging our part to play in the situation. The longer we wait, the more time we give the other person to formulate their own reasons for our actions that may (or may not) be true. Sometimes we hesitate because we don’t know what to say, or we may even be fearful of the outcome. Still, pray about your feelings and go forward right away if apologizing is necessary.
Relationships are important. It isn’t always about throwing them away. Rather than constantly burning bridges or cutting people off, learn how to repair and strengthen those important bridges that may be weak. Grace is a cycle, and in life we are all guaranteed to be on the giving and receiving end at some point. Is there anyone you should be apologizing to?
Here’s to Relationship Cultivation and Restoration,
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