Excerpt from Apologies

The Anatomy of an Effective Apology

7-key-of-compassionIt validates the pain

To make an apology effective we must validate the pain we have inflicted. We validate pain by feeling what they feel. In other words, if they feel disappointed and betrayed, we must feel the same. Only by “putting ourselves in their shoes”, can we truly understand what they are feeling.

It speaks to the pain

We can articulate our understanding of the pain we helped create by “speaking to the pain.” Example: “I can see how you would feel disappointed and betrayed.” By speaking the words that accurately describe the type of pain, we show that we truly do understand how much we have hurt them.

Once defined, we then move to the next step which is to give the actual apology. Example: “I can see how you would feel disappointed and betrayed. I’m so sorry that I gave you reason to feel that way.”

It doesn’t defend

Notice there was no “but” followed by an excuse in the above apology. When making an apology it must be done without defending our actions. As soon as we say but and begin defending our actions, we turn the attention away from the one whom we’ve hurt and focus it on ourselves. Doing this only serves to inflict further pain because we have taken a moment that was about them and made it about us. Example: “I’m so sorry that I disappointed and betrayed you but I didn’t mean to.”

It is given without expectation and places no pressure on the receiver to accept it

Also notice that there’s no mention of a request for forgiveness. We give the apology and acknowledge our actions and then let them decide whether they are willing to release us from blame. We must carry the responsibility of our actions until they decide to look for how they might have co-created the experience and take responsibility for their part.

It reinforces self-worth and offers restitution

Effective apologies are always followed by an offer of compensation. This lets the other person know that they are important since we only tend to offer compensation to those we value. Example: “I can see how you would feel disappointed and betrayed. I’m so sorry that I gave you reason to feel that way. You deserve better than that from me. What can I do to make it up to you?”

If I received an apology such as the example we used, I’d know that I had been heard and that the person who hurt me really understood what they had done and that they wanted to make restitution for the pain. I would feel honored and valued and loved by this person. Furthermore, I would feel that I could trust them to acknowledge and take responsibility for their actions. It’s a relationship I would value and strive to maintain.

So far, I’ve given you the intellectual information on effective apologies. As you are probably already aware, stories bring intellectual concepts to life. Below is a real life story that occurred between my husband, Jonathan and me. In fact it was the conflict that really brought the whole idea of effective apologies to light.