Your professor today will be me, Rickey Dobbs. I have a Ph.D.1 in doing and saying things that cause me to need to seek the forgiveness of others…and as such, I have learned a ton along the way about the effective attainment of others’ forgiveness.
We all screw up. We all say things that hurt others’ feelings. We all look back at things we’ve said or done (or not said, or not done) with a tinge of regret.
But…there is hope for all of us jackholes2 who need to make amends.
Wait…who the hell doesn’t know how to apologize?
Great question, voice in my head. The answer: while everyone “knows how to apologize,” I can almost guarantee you that a few simple tips can make your apologies much more effective – and in turn, strengthen your relationships and give you more of what you want out of life.
And hell, if you’re going to let your guard down and put yourself in a vulnerable spot, it might as well work, right?
So, here goes:
Lesson 1. Do not “apologize”. Say you are SORRY.
If you take nothing else from this blog, take this: there is a subtle, yet important difference between saying “I apologize,” and “I’m sorry.”
When you stop and think about the actual mechanism of an apology, you’re offering up your own vulnerability in exchange for forgiveness.
For some, that comes easy. For most, being vulnerable is the polar opposite of how life has taught them to be. But I assure you, in realms beyond “apologies,” there are few traits that make a person more effective than vulnerability.
Applied here, you are seeking a first-time, quickly-offered response from the recipient of your apology. You want him/her to forgive you, you want it to be real, and you want to move on. By saying, “I’m sorry” – and genuinely meaning it – you are showing that you’ve internalized the error and the way it made the target feel, and something has changed in you. You are no longer oblivious. You are sorry.
“I’m sorry,” is on the same spectrum of “I’m angry,” “I’m hurting,” or “I’m lonely.” They express how you are feeling, and require a level of trust and vulnerability in order to freely express them.
When you instead say, “I apologize,” it is subtle, but you are communicating that you are engaged in an action, not in an emotion. It’s a hedge. You are expressing the feeling, but you’re hedging your expression to protect your own vulnerability. It’s not a pure exposure of how the realization of error has changed your state; rather, it says that you recognize that you have wronged someone and are now taking action.
“I apologize” is not wrong, per se. It’s just not as effective.
Perhaps the simplest way to put it: I can apologize without being sorry, and the recipient understands that at a visceral level.
Your job is to offer up your vulnerability in exchange for forgiveness. Truly being sorry for your actions doesn’t matter at all if you equivocate in your expression of your feelings.
Agree? Awesome. Disagree? Also awesome. Comment with your thoughts! Share it if you think it’s worth reading!
- Not really. I take artistic liberties. I’m sorry for taking artistic liberties. #nailedit
- Adding “jack-” as a prefix to other one-syllable words makes them sound dirty. Adding “-hole” as a suffix to other one-syllable words makes them sound really dirty. Ergo, “jackhole” is an especially dirty sounding, yet non-dirty word.