The Art of Apology

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Have you ever hurt someone’s feelings and not known it at the time? Perhaps you said something teasing that was interpreted as mean-spirited.

By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have done or said many things that require apologies. But making a heartfelt apology that helps pave the way for better relations requires skill.

Do you feel you need to apologize to someone? Perhaps you could benefit from a few pointers before you go talk to the person. Even if nothing comes to mind right now that you need to apologize for, check out these steps to make your future apologies a work of art:

1. Realize you’ve done or said something hurtful. As in correcting any mistake, the first step to an apology is the recognition that you’ve done something that has caused hurt or emotional pain.

* Sometimes, people let us know they’re feeling injured by lashing out. Others withdraw and become quiet.

* Asking questions is a great way to start finding out what’s going on. Try gently inquiring with your friend or loved one if they’re upset about something in particular. If you think you may know what the issue is, mention it.

* Remember that they have a right to decline telling you. If you’ve asked kindly once or twice, and they haven’t engaged with you, let them know that you’d be happy to talk, if or when they become ready.

* Then, give them some space. While they process their feelings, you can think back on your words and actions. Maybe you’ll easily see what your part was in the situation. When you can clearly articulate the role you played, then you’re ready to make an apology.

2. Find just the right words. Next, consider how to phrase your apology. If you’re sincere about feeling sorry, those words will come to you pretty easily. Ask yourself, “What do I want to say?”

* Finding the right words has two goals. The first is to convey the remorse you feel regarding your actions or words. The second and often ignored goal is to vow not to repeat your hurtful behavior or comments in the future.

* In your apology, avoid giving a reason or excuse for your actions. Those who make excuses for their hurtful behaviors look as if they’re trying to defend themselves. Your apology is about the pain caused to them, not about your reasons for your actions.

3. Skillfully communicate your apology. At this point, you’re ready to verbally communicate your feelings.
* Apologies are best done in person. Choose a comfortable setting, make eye contact and tell the person you have something important to address with them.

* State your apology using appropriate voice tones. Avoid long, drawn out apologies. Make it short and sweet. Convey your sincerity with your tone. Joking is usually unnecessary and unwelcome.

* Prepare for any reaction your friend might have. Of paramount importance, listen to any comments or questions from your friend about your prior remarks.

* In the event your friend makes angry comments toward you or further questions your motives in what you originally said or did, listen carefully and recognize that any angry words most likely are the result of hurt feelings. Then, repeat your apology with sincerity.

Making artful apologies takes some practice and skill. But if you follow the three easy steps above, you’ll be well on your way to putting your relationship back into good standing. And you’ll feel better about yourself, too!

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