Many people have complicated feelings about apologies, and not all of our thoughts and feelings about apologies line up. Some of us were forced to apologize as children when we hurt someone, and some of us apologized freely and felt immediately better after having done so. Some people feel shamed by apologizing while others feel ashamed until we have done so. A popular movie from decades ago declared that “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” while many relationship experts warn that never apologizing in a relationship is a sure way to risk losing it. We may have learned about the need for apologizing when we’ve hurt a friend—accidentally or otherwise—but do you know why apologizing is really important, and what function a good apology serves? Researchers and psychologists have pinpointed some important reasons why apologizing is necessary when social rules have been violated. Some of the good things that come from a sincere apology: Apologising when you have broken a rule of social conduct—from cutting in line to breaking the law—reestablishes that you know what the “rules” are, and you agree that they should be upheld. This allows others to feel safe knowing you agree that hurtful behaviour isn’t okay Apologies re-establish dignity for those you hurt. Letting the injured party know that you know it was your fault, not theirs, helps them feel better, and it helps them save face. Apologising helps repair relationships by getting people talking again, and makes them feel comfortable with each other again. A sincere apology allows you to let people know you are not proud of what you did, and won’t be repeating the behaviour. That lets people know you are the kind of person who is generally careful not to hurt others and puts the focus on your better virtues, rather than on your worst mistakes.
Relationships can be great sources of stress relief, but conflict can cause considerable stress, which really takes a toll. Learn the art of apologising effectively and you may find a significant reduction in the negative effects of conflict and relationship stress because apologies help us put the conflict behind us and move on more easily. There are many benefits that come from forgiveness, in terms of and happiness and stress relief as well. In these ways, being adept at apologizing when appropriate can bring the benefits that come with stronger relationships, reduced conflict, and forgiveness it is well worth the effort. For some people, apologising feels like an admission that they are inadequate, that, rather than having made a mistake, there is something inherently wrong with them. Others believe that offering the first apology after an argument is an admission of guilt and responsibility for the entirety of a conflict that involved wrongs on the part of both parties; they think an apology from them will allow the other person to take no responsibility for their own part in the conflict. Sometimes an apology seems to call added attention to a mistake that may have gone unnoticed. However, in the right circumstances, a well-delivered, appropriately sincere apology will generally avoid all of these issues, and will merely serve to usher in a resolution, reaffirm shared values, and restore positive feelings. You just have to know when and how to deliver your apology.
When apologizing is a Good Idea
If something you’ve done has caused pain for another person, it’s a good idea to apologise, even if whatever you did was unintentional. This is because apologising opens up the doors to communication, which allows you to reconnect with the person who was hurt. It also allows you to express regret that they have been hurt, which lets them know you really care about their feelings; this can help them feel safer with you again. Also, apologising allows you to discuss what the “rules” should be in the future, especially if a new one needs to be made, which is often the case when you didn’t hurt the other person intentionally. If you care about the other person and the relationship, and you can avoid the offending behaviour in the future, an apology is usually a good idea. This doesn’t mean that you need to take responsibility for things that were not your fault. For example, you can express regret at unintentionally hurting someone’s feelings, but you don’t have to say you “should have known better” if you truly feel there is no way you could have known they would be hurt by your actions—this is where creating a new rule can help. Taking responsibility also means specifying what you did that you believe was wrong, but can entail gently mentioning what you believe was not wrong on your part. In this way, you protect yourself from the feeling that if you are the first to apologize, you are taking responsibility for the whole conflict, or for the bulk of it.
• Culled from www.verywellmind.com
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