No really; do you know how to apologize? For many of us, it seems like a trivial question. Of course we know how to apologize, we’re adults. Right? LOL, wrong. I actually probably know more adults than children who don’t know how to apologize, properly (major emphasis on the properly). I believe there’s a large misconception that apologies begin and end with ‘I’m sorry’. Apologies, proper apologies, are much more than that. Those two words actually just scratch the surface. Apologies require accountability, selflessness, and empathy. But we’ve reduced this act to two words and a shrug.
Although I am still very young, I’m pretty embarrassed that I have only just learned how to properly apologize over the last few years. I can definitely thank my partner (who is a water sign, that should be enough information lol) for helping me understand I was $h-tty AF when it came to apologies! I actually didn’t know how to apologize without some kind of resentment. I had a disgusting amount of pride that literally made apologizing painful for me. When you seldom believe you’re wrong (Aquarius probs) and aren’t used to being held accountable, you won’t know how to apologize. That was me. It was a task for me to even fix my lips to apologize, let alone move forward to changed behavior. It took baby steps for me. It took someone I care about letting me know what I was doing wasn’t okay and it had to change. I have come a long way and am still working on being better at apologizing and discerning when I need to apologize, without prompt. Unlearning and relearning takes real effort.
Apologies are due when hurt or offense is inflicted upon one party by another. But, to do this, the offending party must acknowledge their wrong. There is no apology without accountability. Accountability, as it relates to apologies, means accepting responsibility of something we’ve done. It takes a lot to admit to ourselves first, that we are wrong. It takes even more to admit to someone else, that we are wrong. Nonetheless, it must be done. When we hold ourselves accountable for doing wrong by others, we create space for others to share their truth with us. Their truth should open our eyes not only to their reality, but our offense. Accountability also allows us to pursue actionable steps in changing our behavior(s). Changed behavior is what is required as a follow up to a real apology. It takes the value of our words a step further.
A large reason I believe we lack accountability is because we’re selfish *shrugs*. We often tend to make apologies about ourselves and not the opposing party. I know, how could that be if we’re apologizing??? Easy. We shift the blame from ourselves to the opposing party in acts of deflection, which often sound like ‘I didn’t mean to *insert action*’ or ‘that isn’t what I meant’. We do this thing where we get worked up as if the opposing party should be apologizing for ‘taking it that way’. Valuing intent over impact is the reason apologies can be so selfish. We so desperately want to defend our behavior, our character, and our ego (whew) that we forget apologies are not about us at all. Apologies should never be about our intentions, ever. We lose sight of the goal when we focus on our ‘intent’. The impact we’ve had on others is what we must look to. This helps broaden our perspective and understand how the other party is feeling, which brings me to my next point.
Empathy. Empathy is completely different than sympathy. Sympathy is being removed from the situation; empathy is being connected to it. Apologies require empathy. They require us to sit in feelings of discomfort to meet the other person(s) where they are. They require us to be present. They require understanding. Sometimes it takes putting ourselves in the other person’s shoes to gain insight. Even ‘in their shoes’ we may not be able to conceptualize how they feel, but that just means we have to do more listening than speaking. Sometimes empathy is listening just to understand, not even to respond.
All in all, everyone can do better when it comes to apologizing. Properly.It requires work and can be uncomfortable. But the most important pieces to remember are to be accountable, selfless, and empathetic. Reflecting on those words help us grow. Learning how to apologize to others encourages us to be more mindful in the ways we interact. It encourages us to be more compassionate. Apologize when it’s due, properly.