I’m talking about how to be forgiven or how to offer an effective apology. Track back to read about the first step, admit the offense.
How to be forgiven: Express Sorrow
Imagine I’ve offended you deeply and I admitted it. What do you want to hear from me next? I think you want me to show some remorse…to express sorrow for what I’ve done. You want to know that I feel bad about it.
Sorrow isn’t just saying “I’m sorry”. We see people make poor apologies all the time in the media…typically athletes and politicians. They’ll do something stupid and then they’ll call a press conference and say…
I’d like to offer an apology for (insert stupid thing here). I understand that some people are upset that I did this. It was never my intention to offend anyone but if anyone was offended then I’m sorry. Read about Rush Limbaugh’s apology
But what’s wrong with that apology? There is no admission of guilt. They are sorry that people got mad. It’s like they are saying, “If you are so foolish to be mad about what I did, then I’m sorry for you”. But they don’t have any sense of doing wrong.
How to be forgive: It’s About Empathy
The key to expressing sorrow is that you express it in terms of the person you offended. There are many things to be sorry for that have nothing to do with the person you offended. I might be sorry that I got caught. Sorry for the consequences. Sorry for my looking bad. Sorry that you are mad. Sorry that you think less of me. But if I’m not sorry for the hurt I’ve caused you then it’s not the sorrow you expect from me.
The kind of sorrow that you want to hear is that I feel YOUR pain…that I understand how YOU must feel. You want to know that I spent time thinking about how I hurt you. That’s called empathy. So my apology needs to be rooted in your feelings. I need to carefully choose words that convey to you that I understand the impact of my actions.
For example it would help to say something like this;
I’ve been thinking about what I did and how it affected you. If someone did to me what I did to you this is how I would feel. I’d feel disrespected and abandoned. I’d feel taken for granted and I’d want to shut them out of my life. So I just want you to know that I get that and I appreciate any hard feelings you might have toward me. They are totally justified.
Notice here that I didn’t tell you how you feel. No one likes to be told how they feel because I don’t really know how you feel. What I said was, this is how I would feel if I was in your shoes. If what I say matches how you feel then your trust for me grows. You will say to yourself, “Amazing. He actually gets it. I finally feel understood. Maybe there is hope after all.”
Question: What makes it so hard to express true sorrow? Leave your comment below.
This post is adapted from the book STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships.
- How to BE Forgiven – Part One: Admit (readingremy.com)
- Rush Limbaugh Apology: Four Keys to a Good Apology