It can be scary and uncomfortable to say we’re sorry. To own up to the fact that perhaps we did something less than stellar and that it negatively impacted someone we care for.
We want to just brush it under the rug. To have it let go. To not have to meet and experience the discomfort of dealing with it!
But there are important reasons to learn to address and clear conflict.
It offers a truer possibility of letting it go. It completes the infraction. It allows for the re-building of trust. And it brings the relationship closer.
There are three steps to resolving any conflict. Acknowledgement, Accountability and Apology.
I begin with Acknowledgement. I own that I did whatever it was. I humble myself. “Yes, I did that.” Deep breath. No defending. No counter-accusation, or what I call “the ‘yeah, but you’ syndrome”. Just a simple expression of self-awareness.
Then I express Accountability. Not only am I Acknowledging that I did it, but I’m letting you know that I know it hurt you. That my actions had repercussions. That you have suffered because of my actions. This is the extension of empathy, compassion. The expression of humility.
And then finally, I Apologize. “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I want to restore peace and goodwill between us.”
The energy and tone of this process are key. Many of us think we’re apologizing when we blurt out a hurried, defended, “I’m sorry! Okay??” Like, ‘get off my back!’ But that never really works!
We need to have our pain heard. We need to feel cared for. We need to know the other person gets it, and that they will do their best to become more conscious and not do the thing again.
We need to know they understand the significance of what occurred, and how it impacted us.
From here, we can begin to come together again. Because the wound has been met with love. Because we’ve been understood and our feelings have been attended to.
Here’s an example:
Acknowledgement: “I acknowledge I didn’t call you when I said I would.”
Accountability: “I know that left you hanging and that made you feel upset and that you couldn’t count on me.”
Apology: “I’m sorry for how that hurt and inconvenienced you. And I will do my best from now on to be more aware of time, and take better care of our relationship by being more considerate and communicating better. You are important to me.”
No excuses. No defending. No, ‘yeah, but you . . . ‘ Just a simple extension of care. Pushing the re-set button, and bringing us more peacefully back into the now, where we can enjoy one another and move on.