I often hear people talk about the words that are the hardest to say. What’s interesting is when people talk about these three words, they recognize how important they are, but have all the reasons in the world why they can’t say them. What is even more interesting is that people won’t say them to the ones that matter the most to them – spouses, parents, MILs, DILs, siblings, children, extended family, even close friends. These are the people who need to hear them the most. Those three words are – “I am sorry.”
Saying “I’m sorry” takes a lot of courage. Saying these three words makes you vulnerable. I know being vulnerable is scary, but if you think about it, it is the price you pay for hurting someone. No one likes to say they are sorry, but no one likes to be hurt either. When you put yourself out there and you’re admitting that your words or actions have hurt someone you care about…someone who really matters to you, you are showing the other person how much they do matter to you.
Sometimes to try to escape feeling that vulnerability, you will hurriedly say, “I’m sorry” and try to change the subject or minimize what you did by giving excuses. This only makes the situation worse. Also saying you’re sorry when you don’t really mean it, to get the focus off of you or to “move on” can be worse than not apologizing at all. Believe me, the other person knows you don’t mean it – they feel; they sense it – and the way you do it lets them know, loud and clear, that you are just trying to get “this thing” to go away.
You will then say, “but I said I was sorry!” and expect the other person to be OK now. Yes you did say you were sorry, but even you don’t believe it was coming from a place of genuinely wanting to resolve the stress you created. Remember the other person is hurting by your actions and the point of apologizing is to let them know how much you regret hurting them…that your intention was not to cause them pain.
When you are going to say, “I’m sorry” to the person you hurt, you need to think about these key points:
- Own it – Say you’re sorry and tell them why you are sorry. Tell them in words that lets them know you truly understand the impact your actions had on them.
- Listen – to their pain – even though it is difficult – and give no excuses.
- Ask – what you can do to make things better and then do it.
As scary as it is to let someone know you are sorry you hurt him or her, the closeness and trust you create with that person is greater and deeper than anything you can imagine. Trust me, it is truly worth it.