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When apologising, seal it with gold

You probably have heard me saying something like, "choose your words wisely because they carry emotions, and once they are out, you can only ask for forgiveness, because people might forget what you said, but they won't forget the way you made them feel…"

Apologising is one of the most difficult interpersonal communication situations. No matter how well, how intimate (or not), how much people know each other, an honest apology is always something that takes energy and "revolves our gut".

It revolves our gut because, if we feel we need to apologise for something, we are already feeling guilty, or embarrassed, or shameful, all negative emotions that make us feel uncomfortable. And, besides, we will have to face the other person and we don't know what her reaction will be…will she forgive us?...

When the "damage" is done, you can only try to amend it. It is like when you break a pot, even if you put the parts together, you will always see the lines where it was broken.

I suggest that our apology should work as the Kintsugi, a Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold — built on the idea that by embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. ... Kintsugi reveals how to heal and shows you that you are better with your golden cracks,” (Wikipedia)

In other words, once it is broken, it can't be forgotten, only forgiven.

The question is, how to apologise properly so that the other person forgives (and, maybe eventually with time, even forgets)?

First, it is important to be aware that apologising means taking full responsibility for something. When you say something like, "I'm sorry that your feelings were hurt," or, "I'm sorry that you are so angry"... what you are in fact implying to the other person is "it has nothing to do with me that your feelings are hurt"... that is what the other person is hearing.

Instead, you should consider saying something like, "I'm sorry that I hurt your feelings", or, "I'm sorry that I made you feel so angry"... That way you are taking the responsibility of your own actions that led to the situation which requires an apology from you.

Studies show that the person is most likely to forgive, and eventually, forget, whatever mishap happened between both of you when you take such responsibility.

Another important aspect to take into consideration when apologising is, don't (try to) justify your actions. It is a normal reaction to try to justify your own actions; however, a justification is in fact a denial of the apology, because, again, you are avoiding taking full responsibility.

Here are some examples of what you should NOT do: "Of, come on, it wasn't that bad"... or "I can't help it, sorry…" or, "I didn't mean it this way…", you know the pattern, don't you?

Instead of coming with a justification, come with a reason. Try to explain your action without being defensive. Even better, and more effective, is to give an explanation - why you did what you did - and recognise your own mistake. That shows responsibility, and maturity.

What you must avoid by all means.

👉🏽Avoid "but" sentences. Every time you say "but", you will immediately put the other person in a defensive mode because she knows that an "excuse" is coming her way and she will get ready to "counter-attack" it.

👉🏽Don't ask for forgiveness. According to the research from Ohio State University on this topic of apology, asking for forgiveness is rarely effective because nobody likes to grant absolution.😳

What you must do by all means

👉🏽Take it as an opportunity to change, to improve your behaviour, your attitude. Even the most honest and sincere apology is worthless if you continue repeating the same mistake.

Making an apology is above all a commitment to making a change, to learn from the experience and seal it with gold.

However, above all, the bottom line is, choose your words carefully, craft your message skillfully, speak with clarity, so you are assured that whatever you say, you are saying it with confidence and responsibility, and THAT is pure gold!


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