3 steps to a genuine apology

Here are three steps to properly mend and heal a relationship.

We just returned from a couples’ retreat in Aliso Viejo (Orange County) organized by our church. It was such a treat to get away from our work, the kids and life in general for 24 hours and concentrate on our relationship! The last session we had was about learning the art of apologizing. Why learn how to apologize correctly?

  • You’re going to need to do it.

  • Apology is the bridge to reconciliation.

  • There will be consequences if you don’t.

I will willingly and readily admit that in our marriage, I am the one who needed this session more. I am lousy at apologizing. I either don’t do it at all or I offer the words without the sincerity that should go with them. If I can remember these three steps to a genuine apology, I know that when I hurt someone, I can be sure to properly heal that relationship.

1. Remorse and regret

Simply put, this is the “I’m sorry” part of apologizing. This needs to be coupled with the right attitude and heart. We’ve all instructed our kids to tell someone they are sorry and been treated to the less-than-sincere delivery of those words.

A stiff apology is nothing but a second insult.

It also needs to be more than just, “I’m sorry.” An apology needs to include acknowledgement of what was done to hurt the other party. It needs to be specific and not vague. For example, “I’m sorry I spoke to you in that tone of voice. It was rude and disrespectful and I shouldn’t have reacted that way.”

Lastly, your offered apology needs to be given with nothing expected in return. Expecting the other person to follow your apology with one of their own is not a genuine apology.

2. Responsibility

The next thing is probably the hardest. Accepting responsibility for wrong-doing means you have to humble yourself and say those three little words, “I was wrong.” Ouch. It takes courage to say those words! It doesn’t mean you are weak! It also takes confidence and maturity. An immature person will do whatever they can to pass the blame. Besides, no one has ever choked to death swallowing their pride.

3. Reconciliation

After expressing remorse (I’m sorry) and accepting responsibility (I was wrong) the last step is to reconcile. This is expressed by saying, “Will you forgive me?” It’s the next step in restoring the broken trust in a relationship. You’re not just saying the words “will you forgive me,” you are saying, “You’re important to me. I care about our relationship. I care about mending what is broken more than I care about my pride.” By the time you get to the point of actually asking forgiveness, if you’ve done step one and two correctly, it will most likely be quickly and easily given.

What about you? Are you good at the art of apology? Or do you tend to let things go and ignore the situation until you think it’s gone away?

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Nicole Burkholder’s blog, 365(ish) Days of Pinterest. It has been republished here with permission.

Nicole Burkholder

Nicole Burkholder is the creator of 365(ish) Days of Pinterest where she writes about recipes, tips and tricks and ideas for kids. She is a wife and mother of three boys and when she isn't busy with church activities, trying out new pins from Pinterest, teaching piano lessons or blogging, she likes to spend her time reading, cooking and learning new things like photography.