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Why is it Important to Say I’m Sorry?

We at Symmetry Counseling believe that knowing how to say “I’m sorry” in a relationship is an incredibly powerful tool. But this tool is not an easy one. To some people, it comes naturally, but to others, it can be very difficult. And even to those who it comes naturally to, are they apologizing in the appropriate way? Let’s talk about this. If you struggle with this or other elements of your relationship, contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed counselors.

Recognizing the Need for an Apology

Let’s start off with a couple of discussion questions that may help you analyze whether you owe someone that you have a relationship with an apology. Did you potentially say something hurtful to someone, and was it on purpose or an accident? Do you feel like you’ve been neglecting someone? Have you done or said something that you regret? Has something been weighing on you? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, a meaningful apology may be crucial for a healthy relationship to continue. Why is it so important? A strong apology can repair minor and major conflicts within a relationship. It shows the other person that you care about them, were able to self-reflect, and decided to put the relationship first.

Overcoming Ego for Stronger Relationships

Sometimes we tell ourselves that apologizing means you’re letting someone else win or that you are somehow defeated. This is your ego getting in the way because, in fact, an apology does the opposite. It shows the two of you that you are able to understand and care for one another. You are able to work together as a team for the benefit of the relationship rather than focusing on your sole need and desire at that moment. We also sometimes think we will not be forgiven or understood if we apologize, so there is no point. This is also far from the truth. Although we cannot control whether someone chooses to accept our apology, there is a point. Without doing this, you are not even allowing the other person to make the choice on whether or not they can forgive you and whether or not they can move forward. You’re not making room for a conversation that can end up benefiting you and the other person, both individually and relationally. I know that these conversations are hard. They are sometimes even shameful. But that difficulty, shame, or guilt that creeps in is exactly what should signal us to know that an apology needs to happen.

The Key Elements of a Sincere Apology

How do you make sure an apology is meaningful? It doesn’t start and end with “I’m sorry.” Harriet Lerner states that a good apology “is when we take clear and direct responsibility without a hint of evasion, blaming, obfuscation, or excuse-making – and without bringing up the other person’s crime sheet.” This is important because it shows that you are taking accountability for your part in why this person may be hurt, angry, or upset. Show them that you have awareness for what you did, have taken responsibility for how you have behaved, and are acknowledging the impact this has had on the other person (even if they have hurt you, too). When you apologize in this way, you leave room for that person to hear you and feel heard. You allow them the space to accept your apology and even apologize for their part in the situation and how it may have affected you.

If you come to the person with an apology but blame or make excuses… then chances are that person will get defensive, and greater conflict will arise. There is power in doing this because there is power in being vulnerable. Apologies are a crucial step in good, healthy, and strong communication, which in turn reflects a strong, healthy relationship. If that is your goal, then understand the impact and power that a meaningful apology carries. If you need help with crafting your apologies or need quality couples counseling to get your relationship steered in the right direction, contact our team at Symmetry Counseling today to get paired up with a licensed therapist.

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