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How to Apologize

At the heart of effective communication is not necessarily what we say nor how we say it, but how we make the other person feel.

So what do you do when someone’s feelings gets hurt?

1. First forgive yourself. This is such an important point, and so hard to do! You hurt someone. That feels awful (or maybe at the time not so awful, but you feel badly now.) But it doesn’t serve anyone if you shame yourself. In fact, shaming creates more violence within, which gives rise to more violence. It is only after we fully forgive ourselves can we move into sincere apology, learning and growth.

Now, you may be saying, “Well hang on, that’s not my fault! No way! She did this and this and that.” That may be very true. But what you are forgiving yourself for is the act of hurting. That’s it. This has nothing to do with admission of liability or about anything that happened. The back story and what led up to it will need to be dealt with later. For now, we apologize for causing hurt, intended or unintended.

Also, I wish to acknowledge that forgiving ourselves may not happen over a few minutes, or hours, or days. Ultimately, you may offer an apology before you forgive yourself. But until we forgive ourselves, we cannot move forward into creating lasting learning and change.

2. The Apology. As we all know, the key to apologizing is in the sincerity and genuineness of it. It has come from that deep part of ourselves. This admittedly feels vulnerable… and so be vulnerable. You have done the hard work of forgiving yourself already. Whether or not the person accepts the apology is their work to do.

3. The “We” Design. This is the great opportunity to create from our conflict. It is done from a calm place: What have we learned? What do we want? What do we acknowledge about our relationship? It must be important enough for both parties in the relationship to continue to address these questions wholeheartedly.

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