Apologies Are Necessary... Are You Doing Them Right?

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Couples Counselor: Reconcile With These 4 Steps
There are 4 steps to a good apology... how many have you mastered?

All couples disagree or even fight from time to time. But sometimes, battles turn into epic wars that are hard to heal. Are you and your partner having a tough time getting over an argument? Here are some tips to help.

1. Surrender to your responsibility.
When you become aware that you have made a mistake, admit it and say you're sorry. Use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. You don't have to be afraid of punishment or rejection — apologizing makes it easier to be forgiven.

2. Don't be afraid to admit you're wrong.
This fear comes from a culture of blame and accusation; when you were younger, your family or schoolmates may have picked a "culprit" when something went wrong and focused on blame, rather than on fixing the problem and healing the hurt. Don't approach every situation as if you're on trial, and don't compulsively try to convince everyone you're not guilty. Apology and subsequent forgiveness is stress-releasing, and healthy for the relationship, which turns out to be healthy for the participants in the relationship. Relationships which include healthy apology and forgiveness are less stressful, more supportive, and therefore healthier for the individuals within them.

3. Follow the following pattern for apology:

  • Admit your mistake: speak directly to the person to whom you need to apologize.
  • State what you did (so the person knows you're aware)
  • Say you're sorry for your part in the situation
  • Do a re-take: Describe what change you'll make to fix it, and ensure it won't happen again
  • Say "I hope you can forgive me."

4. If that doesn't work:
When the first three tips are of no use in quelling the confrontration, ask the other person what he or she wants you to apologize for (in case you misunderstood your mistake).  You'll both be able to express your feelings more openly and honestly.

For an apology to really made an impact, the person saying the "sorry" should genuinely mean it. An inauthentic apology is sometimes just as bad as no apology at all. Work toward forgiveness as you aim for a healthier, happier relationship. 

More couples counselor advice from YourTango:

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission.
Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Dr. Tina Tessina

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Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D.
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Location: Long Beach, CA
Credentials: LMFT, MFT, PhD
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