Saying I’m Sorry: Mending the Relationship

No one is perfect, and no doubt, one fine day, you will find yourself in the wrong. You know you messed up. Your partner is hurt. You need to say “I’m sorry,” but do you know how to express a sincere apology?  Whether you’ve forgotten her birthday, insulted his mother, or been untrustworthy, make sure he/she knows how truly sorry you are. Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, shares some simple, yet effective ways to make an apology the right way.  As she reminds us on Hitched, knowing how to say “I’m sorry” is a very important element in the healing process. A sincere apology takes time, thought and effort.

1. An apology should be offered in person, face-to-face, in a quiet place with little disturbance. Your undivided time and attention is necessary when offering a heartfelt apology. Pick a time of day that you do not have get back to work or pick up the kids from school. Conversation after an apology is generally a relationship builder.

2. Focus on the other person’s feelings and needs. Remember that the apology is not about how bad you feel, but about how your actions have harmed the other person.

3. Be ready to offer a plan of action, such as counseling or behavior modification to rectify the situation. Admitting guilt, showing remorse and offering a promise of change should always accompany an apology.

4. Don’t trivialize the damage. Just because the offense was not significant to you doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of an apology. “It’s not a big deal” is not a good response when attempting to make amends with your spouse.

5. Excuses are not welcome in a heartfelt apology.
Any time an apology ends with “but” the entire effort is negated. “I’m sorry that you feel this way” is a thinly veiled translation of, “I’m not doing anything to change.”

6. Always include the reason for the apology.
Doing this shows you are taking responsibility for your actions and are aware of the behavior that caused pain.

7. Don’t expect immediate forgiveness. “How many times do I need to say I’m sorry?” is not an empathetic question. By the way, the answer is, “As long as it takes!” An apology does not immediately right the wrong.

8. In the case of an affair, your world is no longer off limits.
Understand that you may have apologized, but the trust is broken. Until you have proven otherwise, your e-mail, cell phone and friendships are an open book. Perhaps not forever, but for now.

9. An apology does not have a lifetime warranty. Just because you apologized once about one situation doesn’t mean that you don’t ever have to apologize again for other reasons. Saying, “I’m sorry” is a character builder and has the power to build relationships and heal friendships.

10. Ask how you can make the situation better. By saying, “What can I do to fix this?” you are expressing your desire to atone for your lack of good judgment or thoughtless behavior.

A well thought out apology can save a job, repair a friendship and heal a broken marriage. Follow these simple rules and forgiveness will follow. For more marriage advice, ideas, and inspiration, visit Hitched.

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