Last week I wrote a post with advice on how to offer a sincere apology. Since then, I’ve had several readers contact me complaining, not about the steps I offered, but because they didn’t understand WHY they should have to apologize in the first place.
“Great advice, but why should I apologize if I didn’t do anything wrong?”
“Why can’t people just get over it? I don’t see why I have to swallow my pride and apologize for them to move on.”
“I apologize when I have to, but I hate apologizing. It’s embarrassing and makes me feel powerless because I’m at the other person’s mercy to decide if they’ll forgive me or not. Even when they do, many people don’t even accept apologies graciously.”
Deciding to provide an apology for your actions requires you to first decide whether what you did was right and appropriate, or wrong and inappropriate.
If what you did was right and appropriately handled, you don’t have to apologize. If a teacher grades a student’s paper and the student only gets 10 percent of the questions correct and fails the test, the teacher shouldn’t apologize. If a supervisor appropriately calls an employee aside and tactfully corrects the employees behavior, the supervisor shouldn’t have to apologize if the employee is embarrassed by the correction.
However, if what you’ve done is wrong or inappropriately handled, you don’t deserve to maintain your sense of personal power by not apologizing. I’ve known people who are PROUD they’ve not apologized for things they’ve done wrong. They may feel empowered, but they have no friends, their spouses are distant, and their children avoid them. I hope their empowerment and self worth are there for them when they’re in trouble or need someone, because no one else will be.
So when you’re wrong or you’ve handled something inappropriately. APOLOGIZE!
Stop worrying about yourself and how you’ll feel, and do the right thing for the person you’ve wronged and your relationship with that person, here’s why:
1. Apologizing restores what you took away from the other person when you wronged them–THEIR self worth and power.
2. The person you’ve wronged will most likely feel better physically and emotionally when you apologize.
In fact, research shows that those who receive a sincere apology exhibit lowered blood pressure and heart rater after receiving one.
3. When you apologize, you set a positive example and others will be more willing to admit their mistakes and apologize when they’re in the wrong.
4. Your relationships will grow closer due to this deeper level of self disclosure.
It’s easy to talk about things when you’re right, but when you admit your mistakes and flaws, you demonstrate a deeper level of trust in and caring for the other person.
5. Showing your flaws and vulnerability by apologizing will make you a more likable person.
People don’t like or trust “perfect” people. When you apologize, you admit and reveal your likable imperfection.
6. Once you’ve apologized, you’ll no longer seem like a threat to the other party.
When you’ve wronged someone, they’ll constantly be on guard for the next attack. When you apologize, it often helps bring their guard back down.
7. Apologizing provides justice to the other party.
When they remain feeling wronged, they remain angry and focused on the past. An apology can allow the other party to let go of anger and move forward.
8. Apologizing brings healing to a relationship.
When you refuse to apologize, you allow the wrong to poison your relationship. The wrong leads to “pay back”, negative (or no) communication, grudges, and resentment, which will eventually destroy the relationship.
9. Apologizing is often the first step you can take toward asking for (and receiving) forgiveness, which we all need every now and again.
So swallow your pride, stop focusing on yourself, and apologize. It’s time.