There are, indubitably, many things that we’re sorry for. That time you accidentally farted in front of your teacher. The accidental f-bomb you dropped during family dinner. The ridiculous color you dyed your hair in seventh grade that you swore would turn out nicely.
But should we really say sorry for everything? Maybe not. In fact, miscommunication in apologies exacerbates conflict. Making excuses for your behavior or failing to resolve your misdoing will only further drive the rift between you and the other person. Excessive apologizing is also a particularly self-destructive act for women, who often feel pressured to take the blame in their professional and personal relationships, even when it’s not their fault. Here are 7 ways to approach your apology differently:
- Know when an apology is appropriate. Don’t apologize when you need help. Do apologize for breaking a promise. Don’t apologize for stating a controversial opinion. Do apologize for hurting someone’s feelings, even if it wasn’t intentional. Following this will ensure that your future apologies are well-meant.
- Resolve to fix the issue. Ask the person, “What can I do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” or, “How could I have avoided this?” Persistent effort will let them know that your apology is sincere.
- Try rephrasing your apology. Instead of just saying, “I’m sorry for being late,” try, “I know this caused an inconvenience for you and I’m sorry. Thank you for waiting for me.” This indicates to the other person that you have a deeper understanding of the trouble you caused them.
- Put yourself in their shoes. You should never try to shift the blame, justify your mistake or inject “but” into your apology. Instead of assuming that the other person is being irrational or oversensitive, try to view from their perspective why they’re upset. Empathy in communication and relationships goes a long way.
- Know when to let an apology go. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do about a situation, and apologizing only makes it worse. This is when you should just focus on being the best friend, sibling or partner you can be. On the other hand, back off if they need space.
- Don’t put words into people’s mouths. There is nothing more irritating than a person who incorrectly assumes what you’re thinking or feeling. Before you apologize, make sure you clarify what exactly you did that upset them.
- Let your apologies empower you. The fact that you’re actively seeking to right your wrongs speaks volumes about you. Don’t be ashamed of your mistakes; instead, make them the driving force behind constant self-improvement. Let 2017 be the year where we can think and communicate with others honestly without holding grudges.