Holland & Usry February 2020

When You Follow the Rules for True Apologies IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO SAY SORRY

Feb. 14 surely gives us an opportunity to think about love and all its joys, but when love lasts, we realize there’s work to be done, too. Some of the hardest work we do for the people we love comes down to two simple words:

3. Don’t overshadow the apology with how bad you feel. Express remorse, but don’t make the victim feel guilty.

4. Don’t play the blame game. Even if the victim played a role, don’t say things like, “You started it!” Instead, try saying, “I’m sorry for my role in this.” 5. Fix it. Promise to change your behavior. Then do it. Otherwise, your apology is just a Band-Aid, not a cure. If it’s a serious sin, you may have to do a lot of repair work. Hunker down and get it done. 6. Timing is everything. Sometimes you’ve got to let the wounds heal a bit before the one you hurt is ready to hear you. You owe them that.

I’m sorry.

For me, uttering that can feel like a kick in the gut, even if I know I’m wrong. But I’ve figured out after nearly two decades of marriage that an unapologized wrong is like an untreated wound. It festers and sickens a relationship. If I’ve done wrong to someone I love, I need to say I’m sorry and say it well. So, how do you do that? I found an enlightening article on Psychology Today’s website called “The 9 Rules for True Apologies” written by Harriet Lerner, a Ph.D. psychologist who also wrote the book “Why Won’t You Apologize? Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts.” Here’s the expert’s advice — in my words — on making an apology that can make a difference, heal your relationship, and make you a better part of it. And, I’ve gotten the nine rules down to six! 1. Avoid the dirty word “but.” Injecting “but” into an apology makes it an excuse and transfers blame to the victim. It’s pretty hollow to hear, “I know I was wrong, but ...” After the “but,” who listens? 2. Own it. Focus on what you did wrong, period. Don’t bring up the other person’s response, which often starts with “but” — “But you shouldn’t have gotten so mad.”

You can check out the full article at PsychologyToday.com/us/ blog/the-dance-connection/201409/the-9-rules-true-apologies.

And to that, I’ll add three more rules from some other expert advice I’ve gotten:

7. Confess. Tell the victim you know exactly what you did wrong.

8. Tell them you know how it hurt them. Prove you’re sensitive to the inconvenience or suffering you’ve caused.

9. Ask for forgiveness. Give them the power to release you from your wrongdoing so you can both move on.

It doesn’t take much: “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you I’ve got to leave town this weekend for work. Now, you’ve got to get the children to their activities without my help, which is complicated and frustrating. I didn’t think of you. That won’t happen again. I’ll arrange some carpools to help you. Will you forgive me?”

Here’s hoping we all become a little stronger this year so we can counterpunch these kicks in the gut with a strong, sincere apology.

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