Apologizing is kind of a crazy, weird thing. You're basically throwing yourself at the mercy of a person you've wronged, and hoping that, for some reason, they decide it's all good. Well, if you apologize like you mean it. Because there's a right and a wrong way to apologize, and just saying "sorry" in a text message won't cut it. No matter how heartfelt you swear your tone was, or how many crying face emoji you use.
Real apologies require digging deep, making yourself vulnerable, and exposing your flaws to another human being. They're also about making amends. When I worked as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, I saw how a good apology could save a relationship, and how a bad one could be the last straw in a failing one.
A good apology taps into your skills of communication, empathy, and trust. Even if it's a minor apology, it's still kind of a big deal, in an emotional sense. Plus there's the anxiety of hoping the person you're apologizing to will forgive you, and the task of re-gaining their good favor. These tips will help you smooth things over in a sincere way, but really, if you speak from the heart, and do what feels right, you'll probably do just fine.
1. Dig Deep Into Your Feelings
You need to take a little bit of time to think things over, so you go into your apology with a clear head. You need to know what you did, why you did it, why it upset your partner, and why it might be an issue in your relationship. If you don't think things through, you could go in with some residual anger or resentment and make things even worse. If you've done something knee-jerk, and you know it was immediately wrong, you can immediately apologize, but if it's a serious issue or major relationship crime, take the time to sort it out.
2. Be The Bigger Person
Sometimes you were a little wrong and your partner was also a little wrong. But also sometimes it's important for you to be the bigger person, bite the bullet, and be the one to apologize. It will all come out when you discuss things, and you can have your say about how your partner made you feel. This is a piece of the compromise of being in a relationship. And sometimes your partner will do the same for you. Putting things off too long just gives time for resentment and anger to build.
3. Apologize The Right Way
Once it's time to do the deed, you have to do things right, which means you have to get into full-on apology mode. No phones. No text apologies. No TV in the background. Just you, your partner, and some real eye contact. And then you just have to apologize. Say, "I'm sorry I..." and explain what you're apologizing. This will kick start the discussion and open the door for you both to share your feelings.
4. Listen Like It's Your Job
If you're in a situation where you need to apologize, your partner is going to have some feelings about the situation. Now is the time for you to listen to what they have to say. And not just hear. Really listen. This means tuning in, putting yourself in their shoes, and acknowledging you heard what they said. It's not the time to interrupt or disagree. It's just the time to listen.
5. Make A Plan
If you did something wrong, and you've apologized, that's a great first step, but to really show you mean it, you need to make a plan. This plan can be how to avoid future incidents, how to make amends, or what you can both do to improve your communication skills. If there's a specific problem at hand, you can make a plan to address that. If not, explaining how you understand your partner's point of view and feelings will help them to trust that you meant your apology.
6. Let Your Actions Speak, Too
If you apologize for, say, always being late, and you recognize how it makes your partner feel, and you make a plan to change, you need to follow through. The very next day, you can't be late without a really, really good excuse. Your actions in this situation will speak louder than your words. If you don't follow through, you're not just making your partner mad, but you've crossed the line into violating your partner's trust
7. Buy Presents
I'm kind of joking and kind of not. Of course, you don't need to buy off your partner, and gifts are no excuse for real, healthy communication after a disagreement. But in a time of vulnerability, it can make your partner feel really validated and special if you do something romantic, buy a gift that you know she'll love, make dinner, or do something fun just to lighten the air and bring a little happiness into your lives. Don't mistake this act with your meaningful apology though. It's more of a suggestion than a solution.
Just remember that the key to a good apology is to speak from the heart and to show a little empathy. Deep down, we al just want to fee understood.