Life is messy and we inevitably screw up from time to time. Sometimes, we mess up royally, and desperately need to conjure an apology that wipes the slate clean for a fresh start. A well-delivered apology is powerful enough to pave the path for openness and connection moving forward. But how do we give that kind of apology?
By nature, apologies happen at critical junctures of all relationships. Many adults are ill-equipped to accept responsibility when they’re wrong and lose meaningful connections as a result. With the speed at which we live, apologizing has become a formality. To the detriment of our relationships we often skirt passed the heartfelt apology with a simple “I’m sorry.” Instead of cleaning the slate, we sweep it under the rug and keep moving. We’ve all given and received the abbreviated apology and more often than not, it truly isn’t enough.
“Many people use apologies as a way of making things go away,” explains Kelleher matchmaker Erin Soskin. “They default to an apology as a way to delay a difficult conversation or temporarily soothe a partner. What a hurt partner perceives is that you’d rather take the easy way out than tackle an issue to build a better foundation. An apology carries true weight when you’re able to tell your partner why you’re sorry, express your true feelings, and empathize with theirs.”
As matchmakers we coach men and women through difficult conversations daily. We’ve found that an authentic apology contains three major components.
Acknowledgement – Don’t justify your actions or make excuses. This is one of those times when you fall on your sword. Listen and acknowledge the other’s perspective and your role in the situation.
Make Up – Find an active resolution that’s in your power and stick to it. Apologies can’t be followed by a repeat performance of the negative action the next day, or week, or year.
Move On – Both parties must commit to the resolution and offer peace and forgiveness. Living in the past and bringing it up over and over again will stunt the growth of your relationship and cause permanent damage. Remember to forgive yourself for the transgression as well. You can’t beat yourself up and move on at the same time.
Director of Matchmaking, Kimberly Colgate tells clients, “In order to give a heartfelt apology you must first put yourself in the other person’s shoes and evaluate their perspective. Offering a sincere apology is not about protecting anyone from discomfort, but rather about acknowledging your truth while honoring the other person’s. Giving them the space to disagree with you, while taking ownership for your actions is critical. You must recognize your part in the situation and how you made the other person feel.”
Acknowledging the other person’s perspective usually contributes to both parties’ willingness to let go and move on.
The Authentic Apology In Action
It might be as simple as saying, “I can see now why you feel that way.” And then mirror back what you heard in your own words. Then express what you’re willing to do to make amends and finish the heartfelt apology with, “Our connection matters to me. I’m truly sorry. Are you willing to accept my apology and move on with a clean slate?”
Don’t Forget to Actually Say the ‘I’m Sorry’ Part
Matchmaker Pam Nolen reminds, “Don’t forget to say the “I’m sorry” part at the end. So many times I hear back from clients who find themselves in a situation where they need to apologize for their behavior and they willingly talk out the issue with their potential match and dissect the situation, but never utter the words “I am sorry.” Of course I hear from the other person how disappointed they are because, “They couldn’t even tell me they were sorry.” In my experience, those magic words can never be left out of an apology if you want it accepted.”
Accept That Acceptance May Take Time
If the transgression is big you must also find peace in not receiving forgiveness immediately or perhaps at all. Pam adds, “It might take a few days or even weeks for a person to accept an apology or maybe to decide the mistake is unforgivable. Give the person space to process without interruption or question. A nice gesture might be to send a thoughtful card or flowers or their favorite treat with a sweet note asking how you can be most supportive to them while they move to their own resolution.”
Sometimes More Talking Is the Solution
Kelleher matchmaker Patty Russell explains, “Some people shy away from talking things through and being vulnerable about the root of the problem. Most often, what we need is to talk about what’s really bothering us and move toward a solution. Taking responsibility and admitting you’re wrong is hard for most people, but listening can be even harder. Both acts have rewards all their own. It says a lot about someone who will admit their indiscretions and the pain they caused. On the bright side, it is freeing when you finally admit you screwed up and truly understand how you can actively make amends. Sometimes raw and respectful dialogue is what’s needed to open eyes and turn a situation around that had otherwise felt hopeless.”
Your Biggest Responsibility
Your biggest responsibility to the relationship will be in your actions moving forward. Matchmaker Erin says, “Show your partner you mean what you say by not ending up in the same situation repeating the same apology. Be impeccable with your word and any apology thereafter will be more meaningful.”
KI Matchmaker, Nahla Grafer sums it up best, “The very essence of I AM SORRY is learning and not making the same mistakes again because at that point they are no longer mistakes, they are choices. When we know better we ought to do better.”
If you are a Kelleher client or are interested in joining our elite network of singles it’s important to know that the fastest way to finding your match is through open, respectful, free-flowing communication. We might find ourselves in a disagreement of our own at times. Rest assured we practice what we preach.
Nahla explains, “I had a client go MIA with a potential match and me. The fact that even I wasn’t hearing from him made me wonder and worry as it was massively out of character for him. When he resurfaced he explained to me the magnitude of issues he was currently facing. While I understood and empathized, I had to spell out that as a Kelleher International Matchmaking client, he was a representative of both KI and me. I also explained my worry and the importance of making time to communicate – especially in those big, scary moments life sometimes throws in our path. He acknowledged his inaction and apologized to me and the woman. Often times hurtful things are done inadvertently with no malice, as in this situation. What I love about my relationship with my clients is that when both parties have the same goal and genuinely feel supported in the connection the apologies and acceptance flow and create the space for us to find your match.”