Run a half marathon.
Read 4 books a month for one year.
Go to grad school while working full time.
Get out of debt.
Learn a new language.
What do all of these things have in common? They are hard. Simply put, to do these things requires making a choice. A strategy, even. Same goes for marriage and apologies within our relationships. Gulp, home girl is about to talk about apologies.
I’m not only the queen of needing to make apologies, I’m the queen of thinking I’m owed an apology. And boy do I dig at getting one sometimes. As I’m sure you can guess, it never goes well and the end result is just more frustration. I’m sure you would be more amused if I sat and hashed out all the ‘don’t dos’, paired beautifully with stories of my own drama but it’s likely more productive if I just share why it’s so important to apologize and how to do it in a healthy way.
As for why, I think this is rather obvious, so I’ll be brief. None-the-less we should all be on the same page, I suppose. Why should we apologize?
- For our own refinement. Cleansing of pride.
- To reconcile and restore peace. *Notice, I did not say “to make peace.” No one is asking you to be a martyr, apologizing just to hush things up and move-on.
The best apologies avoid blame and have a sense of ownership, validation and repentance. Here is an example, using both an unhealthy and healthy apology.
Unhealthy: I’m sorry you feel that way. (blame: this is solely on them, not a real apology)
Healthy: I’m really sorry that my words (ownership: my words) made you feel that way. I see that I've hurt your feelings (validation: their feelings are hurt and you recognize it) and I would like to learn how I could adjust my approach on this topic because while I do have an opinion, I want to always be kind and loving (repentance: showing remorse and the effort to improve).
Does using the healthy apology mean I backed down from my stance? No, but it does show humanity that I would never just set out to hurt someone and their feedback not only affords me the opportunity to evaluate my approach but it shows them I am willing to adjust it as well.
This is great and all but having some practical strategies on laying down pride long enough to apologize may help. Here are things that work for us!
Asking for time to think. If in an argument, John knows that my preferences is for him to ask me (don’t tell me) if he may have time to think and then come back in an hour (or schedule a time) to finish talking. This gives room to calm down and process things. It also gives me the security that it will in fact be discussed again with the purpose of resolution.
Wear the other shoe. We don’t have to agree, but we do need to always seek to understand the other person’s perspective. Even if the root issue is completely unrelated to the argument or action. Thinking about how John feels can help me soften my attitude.
This too shall pass. Sometimes, we will be arguing and I think to myself “this is ridiculous and has no bearing on anything at all”. Once I have this perspective and can remember that in the big picture of our relationship, this is peanuts, it is so much easier to lay down my guard and apologize.
Having a foundation. We decided in the beginning that we are on the same team so sometimes, it’s as simple (and by simple, I mean super hard) as remembering that. To “in the moment”, be the one that will rise above it and say “this is not productive and I’m sorry”. In those moments, I don’t even always go into the ownership/validation thing because a frank “I’m sorry” says it all.
As I wrap this up for you, I want to share the magic of an apology that recently occurred in our house.
The other day, John and I were disagreeing about something and I wasn’t able to express my thoughts well with words so everything I said was muddy and he was so lost and confused with it. But naturally, I kept pushing. I started to get that “ick” feeling and realized that now we were just fighting because of my own pride. I just had to be right. I finally stopped, and said “look, I’m sorry. I’m not wording this well and do have some real feelings about it but maybe we should talk once I process those better.” And guess what happened next?!?! He said “you know, I think I know what you are saying <inserted my exact feeling> and I understand. I disagree with your conclusion but maybe I could have done “this” better and it wouldn’t have made you feel that way. I’m sorry too.”
BAM! What is to be learned from that? John knows me better than anyone and once I laid down my pride, he was able to do the same and fill in my thoughts for me.
If you’re like me, you find yourself in a tiff and are like “what the heck… I don’t like this… I don’t want to fight… what are we even fighting about?… can we just be friends again?….” but at some point, you feel like you’re in too deep. That is a perfect sign that you desire reconciliation and it’s time to make the hard choice: apologize or keep fighting.