Having recently received a "sorta" apology, I’m thinking of the ways we use the word sorry. There is of course, the Canadian "I’m sorry" which seems to be a way of starting a sentence, that proclaims our famed modesty and asks that we not be taken seriously, unless of course the person wishes to. Enough said………I’m working on saying that kind of sorry less.
My least favourite version is "I’m sorry, but………….". Unfortunately, this seems rather common – the apology which isn’t really apologetic. Rather it often asks the other to forgive the misdemeanor, even while the speaker explains it away. For example, "I’m sorry that your feelings were hurt, but you deserved the unkind thing I said". In other words, what I did was your own fault.
Closely related is the "I’m sorry if……………", which implies that the receiver of the apology is probably guilty of excessive sensitivity. Maybe the speaker doubts that there was actually any harm done. This one is often followed by the but…………. explanation which places the responsibility back on the receiver. As in, "I’m sorry if (?) your toe was broken when I stepped on it, but you really shouldn’t have had it out there on the ground at the moment in time that I was walking past you."
On to the makings of a genuine, heartwarming apology. There are several elements:
Acknowledgement of what was done.
Identification of the harm caused.
Recognition of responsibility for both the action/inaction and the harm.
Intent to accept that responsibility.
Notice of how the situation will be remedied.
Gratitude for the relationship within which the circumstance occurred.
Okay, so I managed to come up with a catchy acronym – AIRING – which I think reflects the positives of a real apology. It exposes the problem, puts it up front, and provides an opportunity to clear the air (and the relationship). There is a real relief to both parties in the apology, when it doesn’t get cluttered up with excuses, avoidance of responsibility, expectations of forgiveness when it hasn’t been earned, and diminishment of the actual harm which has been done. After a real apology, there is time and opportunity to discuss how the situation occurred, to ask questions, and to resume and move forward in the relationship.
So the next time you step on someone’s toes, try out a conscious AIRING apology. It feels good. You don’t have to bear guilt or shame, or define yourself as a bad person. Accidents happen, harm occurs inadvertently, and we all are able to accept this graciously, if given the opportunity. Even when the behaviour is clearly wrong, when you apologize genuinely and act accordingly, you can set the course towards forgiveness.
And, if you receive a genuine apology, try to listen to it openly, feel free to ask questions and give the apologizer the opportunity to help you understand how the situation developed and how it can be remedied in the future. It also feels good to participate in working toward a solution.
I hope to hear some feedback from you about this or any other topic. I look forward to the next time we talk.