How to apologize correctly in terms of psychology
Trust and mutual respect are the basis of human relations. But the interaction is impossible without contradictions, disagreements, self-discovery and getting to know the partner, which sometimes occurs on the background of offenses. The ability to forgive is a trait of a mature person. But just as important is the ability to apologize.
Why ask for forgiveness
A mature person must take responsibility for their actions. And asking for forgiveness is a demonstration of that skill. In addition, it shows a respectful attitude toward the partner, recognition of his feelings, understanding of his position, the desire to preserve the relationship, the importance of the relationship for the individual.
However, even among adults there are those who cannot squeeze an apology out of themselves or they do it ridiculously. “I didn’t mean it” sounds like “What’s the big deal? I had nothing to do with it.” “I didn’t know that, I’m sorry, now I understand you” sounds much better. Although it’s not the best form of forgiveness either (read about this in section three of the article).
Reasons why people find it difficult to ask for forgiveness:
- cowardice, indecisiveness; (fear prevents them from saying even good words)
- inability to admit mistakes, to lose; , God complex;
- protest and opposition born in childhood.
Sometimes the need to ask for forgiveness automatically causes irritation and negative, humiliating feelings. This happens when a child has been punished and threatened as a child and forced to ask for forgiveness without understanding the situation. Some parents acquaint their children with social norms in this way and achieve self-respect.
Types of apologies
Behind each apology there is a hidden motive, a goal. According to this, we can distinguish 6 types of apologies:
- Soothing apology (“you just don’t get mad”). A person asks for forgiveness in order to neutralize the anger of his opponent. Moreover, he apologizes even before he is unmasked. This apology means nothing, the person does not repent.
- Apologizing as self-defense. A person asks for forgiveness for self-preservation, under the influence of the public or an authority figure. This is often used by public figures or criminals, hoping for a pardon. Moreover, those who have demanded an apology feel satisfied. But the person himself does not stop thinking differently, which means that he can repeat what he has done.
- Apology-insult. “I didn’t know it would offend you,” “I didn’t think you would be offended,” etc. That is, the person communicates that he or she has done nothing wrong, these are the “cockroaches” of the interlocutor. But if the person is sure that he or she has been offended, then, so be it, the offender will apologize.
- Apologizing out of guilt. Some people apologize only in critical situations: a loved one has left, a friend has fallen ill, someone has died. If they realize that they have contributed greatly to the breakdown of a relationship, the deterioration of someone’s health, their conscience torments them. They ask for forgiveness to absolve them of their “sins.”
- Polite Apology. Occurs with moderate or excessive tact, victim syndrome. The person apologizes at every step to avoid conflict, to get approval. Sometimes it devolves into obsequiousness.
The last type is the sincere apology. It is the only kind without a hidden subtext. It occurs with a good attitude toward the person, love and care. The one who apologizes puts himself in the place of the significant person, understands his point of view and feelings, and therefore seeks to improve the relationship, to return a positive atmosphere. Such an apology brings people closer together and develops relationships and their participants.
How to apologize correctly
The correct apology is only one – sincere. And it is enough to say three words – “forgive me, please”. You can expand the wording and say a fact, a deed, for which a person is ready to take responsibility.
In general, the formula of apology looks like this:
- Clear wording: “I’m sorry.”
- Regret: “I’m sorry that… (the reason for the offense)”.
- Acknowledgement of guilt, responsibility, violation of norms or someone’s boundaries (description of the facts, your view of the situation, actions).
- Sympathy: talking about your partner’s feelings and emotions in the context of “I can only guess how you…”.
- Asking for forgiveness (don’t demand a response, express your willingness to wait, to be forgiven someday).
It’s important that you want to apologize, not that you feel you have to. Then it will be easier to sympathize, and the right words will come to mind on their own. If you can additionally fix the situation with actions, then do it.
Any particles like “if,” “but” indicate insincerity: “I’m sorry if I offended you,” “I’m sorry, but I don’t think so. They show the speaker’s uncertainty that he or she really understood the situation, admitted guilt, and repented. The same effect is produced by accusations against the partner: “I did it because you…”, “and you…” and so on.
And even the wording “I apologize” (“I apologize”) and “forgive me” have completely different meanings. In the first case, we talk about our feelings, in the second – we acknowledge the importance of our opponent’s feelings. The first apology is more often formal, the second is sincere. In the first case, we do not give the person a choice, in the second, we put ourselves on trial (our apology may not be accepted).
Convincing and effective will be the apology that addresses the feelings of the offended, not the offender. We need to understand our partner’s feelings and needs and focus on making him or her feel better, not us. After all, we will automatically feel better if the apology is accepted. But they will only be accepted if they sound convincing, appropriate to the person’s current state of mind.
Resentment, guilt, forgiveness: What does everyone need to know?
For a long time now, the Thomas magazine website has had a permanent column called “Question to a Priest. Every reader can ask a question in order to get a personal answer from a priest. But some of the questions cannot be answered by a single letter – they require a thorough conversation. Some time ago we received one of such questions – How to ask forgiveness in a Christian way. We asked Archpriest Pavel Velikanov to answer the question – Until we learn to forgive ourselves we cannot forgive others, we picked up examples of how and whom saints forgave, and also asked psychotherapist Konstantin Olkhovoy to answer the question.
The topics of offense, guilt and forgiveness are huge, even infinite, there are a great many books, articles and lectures on them. Here I will talk about the things that are important for everyone to know.
Unforgiven grudges are pain points in a person’s soul
How often we are told that the offense must be forgiven. That seems like an obvious thing to say, especially to a Christian who understands the importance of forgiveness. But why is it that in the vast majority of cases the therapist is confronted in his work with the theme of this or that unforgiveness? Unforgiveness, which prevents a person from living, unworked grudges, which burns out a person’s soul.
Often we approach the subject of forgiveness formally: saying “I forgive” without sincerely forgiving. We pretend to forgive by formally fulfilling social and religious “norms and rules.” We do not open the pus, but drive it deep inside. But the pus does not go away. So resentments are pustules hidden deep inside that may not hurt for a while, but eventually they still begin to press, cause “inflammation,” etc. A classic example is a child’s self-hidden grudges against his parents, often quite fair. Moreover, to the offense is added the feeling of guilt for the offense, which may be more painful than the pain itself: “Parents are sacred! They must be honored! How can you resent them!” And we try over and over again to repress this resentment, not realizing that repression doesn’t cure, but only drives the problem inside. But reverence doesn’t mean that we don’t have to deal with our pain and resentment related to our parents.
There is an unforgiven grudge that lives in almost every person.
Unforgiven grudges are one of the most common problems in marital relationships, when family life turns into an ever-increasing lump of mutual resentment. Over time, when that lump reaches gigantic proportions, it almost inevitably leads to the destruction of the marriage. And it does not matter whether it is a legal divorce or formal cohabitation of strangers, hostile people.
And then there are the very “strange” grievances, the grievances that most people won’t admit to themselves. Of which they will say, “This is definitely not about me! That’s impossible, disgusting, nasty, and immoral!” I’m talking about resentment against loved ones for being. dead. It sounds very strange. But ask yourself: “Don’t I resent being abandoned? Am I not resentful of a parent, a spouse, a child, someone close to me who died – for leaving me here alone, for hurting me so much with their passing?” The mind will scream that this is nonsense, that it is not the loved one’s fault that they died, that they didn’t want to leave you alone. But someone small and unhappy inside of us knows that the right words don’t make them feel better, that the pain and resentment live on. In my experience, I can tell you that this resentment, in one form or another, exists in almost all people who have experienced loss.
Don’t be afraid to confess
If something has hurt you a lot, don’t hesitate to admit it, first of all to yourself. Any attempt to walk away from an offense by saying “no, it’s okay, I’m not offended at all” or “no, I forgave you long ago,” will only drive the pus inside. No – “I’m hurt, I’m very hurt and very bad”. Only by allowing yourself to feel it can you get out of a state of (explicit or hidden) resentment.
Do not hoard!
This is a very important point. If you have a grudge against the man, it’s better to tell him right away and try to work out the problem together. Do not collect in your five, ten, a hundred insults. The more there is, the harder it is to cope with them.
Formal “sorry – I forgive you” without a real forgiveness is meaningless
What do we mean by “forgive”? Forget and pretend it never happened? Just like before, to rejoice in the person who hurt you. In psychotherapeutic terms, to forgive means to let go. That is, not to feel pain, worry, anger, rage toward the person.
If you feel that some unforgiven offense (incoming or outgoing) is gnawing at you, try to sincerely let it go. Yes, it is a work with your soul. “That’s it, I don’t want to be offended anymore, because it makes me feel bad, not the person I’m offended at, it eats me up and keeps me from living.”
The problem is that people very often ask for forgiveness or forgive formally: “Oh, I’m sorry, please” – “No way, I’m not offended by you. And there is no real letting go of the problem. Believe me, formal “I forgive you” doesn’t work.
Do you forgive those who don’t ask for forgiveness?
Forgive. But how? Will saying “I must forgive” solve the problem? No. After all, what is resentment? It is our reaction to actions that have hurt our weak spot. But if we simply say to ourselves, “We must forgive the offense,” our weak spot won’t go anywhere. We will remain its hostage. But if we tell ourselves we want to forgive, we have to find the source of the offense. We have to find that weakness, we have to work it out. And then the offense will go away, because it won’t have a point of attachment. And our soul will become a little freer.
What if the person does not want your forgiveness?
It is important to understand that behind the phrase “I have never asked forgiveness from anyone” there is always some kind of psychological game. Why does not the person admit his guilt, what benefit does he get out of it? Therefore, if it is not an extremely close person for you, it is better to formalize further communication. Not in order to punish him, but to protect yourself. And with a loved one? We can fight for a loved one by knocking on his heart again and again. And – get through. Or. step back, realizing that it is no longer a loved one.
You don’t have to say it out loud, you have to say it to yourself. The person has done it once or several times and doesn’t think he did it wrong. Then he can do it again, and I have to be ready for that. I don’t hold a grudge, a grudge against him, but I just know it could happen again. Just like I don’t hold a grudge against a thunderstorm or a hurricane or an earthquake, but I understand that they are a danger to me, so I try to protect myself somehow.
You can ask for forgiveness with more than just words.
Don’t forget that there are some people who have a very hard time asking for forgiveness with words. They may not want to be offended, but they just can’t say those three cherished words. Often, however, with their looks and actions they try to show that they were wrong, and in doing so they apologize to us. Does that count as a request for forgiveness? I think so, yes. Such behavior often carries much more weight than words that bring us back to the problem of formalism: “Oh, did I break your leg? Well, I’m sorry, please.”
It’s very important to learn to admit when you’re wrong.
Our reader is wary: “You seem to feel that you owe it to yourself to ask for forgiveness, even though you may be only partly at fault. But what if your request for forgiveness is taken by the person as an admission of your surrender?”
On the one hand, we are probably dealing with some kind of distorted relationship again. Why are you so afraid that your apology will be perceived as surrender? Don’t you think that if you expect the person to say, “Aha, you capitulated!” in response to your apology, it means that your relationship is taking shape in some scandalously destructive way? Do you need it at all? Isn’t that a reason to fundamentally change the relationship?
On the other hand, it often happens that the person is absolutely right in content, but wrong in form. If you, for example, didn’t like something about the other person’s behavior and you made an ugly scandal about it, you yelled so much that the person left crying, of course you should say: “I’m sorry, I made a horrible scandal, I was totally wrong. But that said, I still don’t like the behavior that I reacted to in such a stupid, ugly way.”
It’s important for any child and adult to learn to admit their mistakes. You are not required to admit total guilt for everything. If you feel that you were wrong about something, you need to ask for forgiveness for specific things. And when you sincerely admit your mistake, when you jointly analyze why it happened, how to fix it, how not to repeat it in the future – this is much more effective for both you and others than just yelling, “It’s my fault, I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” That’s what a healthy relationship is all about – when people try to work through the situation, understand what caused the conflict and sort out their mistakes.
When you throw away a rock from your soul, don’t cripple those around you.
There is a saying, and it best answers our reader’s last question. If you have ever caused a person an evil he is not aware of, if you feel guilty in front of him, but are afraid of their words to hurt him, to ruin his family or even life, if the situation is already incorrigible – ask him to forgive you mentally. Solve the problem without his participation, sort out by yourself with your soul. The main thing – to sincerely realize their wrongdoing.
Remember: insults – not inevitable! With them you can work and cope.
But you should clearly understand that this is mental work – a big, hard and almost always very painful. There may be such advanced people who can ask forgiveness and forgive easily and cheerfully, but I have never met such people in my life, neither among the laity nor among priests. It is difficult, but necessary. Because if we do not work through our offense, at some point in our lives it will begin to eat away at us.
Not every grievance can be dealt with alone.
In some cases, a person needs help from outside. What are the options? For example, you can work out the problem with the person who was wronged – but only if he is sincerely ready to help you, ready to work with you. If you can’t resolve the issue together, you can ask for help from a therapist, who will help you look at what you can’t look at yourself.