How a Good Apology Can Change Your LifeBy Donna Moriarty
Nobody’s perfect. At some point or other, we all screw up. We’ve lost a borrowed sweater, shouted mean things in anger, or accidentally sideswiped a parked car. What can set you above most other people is the ability to deal with those mistakes quickly, effectively, and confidently.
Knowing how (and when) to admit you’re wrong and facing it squarely with a good apology—well, that’s power. Power to heal strained relationships, sort out misunderstandings, and persuade hostile forces—be they spouses, friends, foes, in-laws, or bosses—to stand down.
Here’s an example. You’re at a wedding, chatting with friends or a family member or two. On a group visit to the restroom, the conversation turns to someone who’s experiencing difficulty—her troubled marriage, her sullen teenagers, her weight gain. Suddenly one of the stalls opens and out storms the person you’ve been gossiping about. Her eyes streaming tears, she singles you out and shrieks, “I thought you were my friend!”
Obviously, you owe her an apology. Right?
Yes, you do. Never mind that the others joined in the gossip-fest or that what you said was mostly true. That’s just another way of saying, “It wasn’t my fault”—a major stumbling block to any apology.
What matters is that the damage has been done. If you care anything at all about your relationship, you’ll try to make it right, or risk causing even more damage. At the very least, you’re likely to suffer, too, with feelings of guilt, defensiveness, and resentment—the scar tissue that builds around an undelivered apology.
Here’s a rule of thumb: if you’re crossing the street to avoid someone you’ve had a falling out with, it’s a sure sign you owe them an apology. The longer you avoid it, the more you’re going to suffer.
True, it’s not for the faint of heart. A good apology demands self-awareness, honesty, and a big slice of humble pie. We need to own our mistake, recognize the damage it caused, and resolve to make things right.
There are many ways to cause harm, and we’ve all been there: We pressed send. We went over our boss’s head, humiliating her. We drank too much and embarrassed our spouse. We yelled hurtful things at our kids and later felt we went too far.
So how do we repair those harms done to our most important relationships?
1. Admit It
A good apology starts with an unflinching self-appraisal: What did you do? Why was it wrong? Take a hard look at what you did. You know the cues—something a friend once called “the uh-oh feeling in your tummy.” Don’t run from that feeling—it’s your conscience, and it will help guide you out of the mess you’re in.
2. Express It
Seek out your victim and