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Elements of a good apology(DW# 799)

Now that we have a good understanding of why apologies matter so much and how easily they can go wrong, let us explore what a good apology sounds like.
 
Researchers at various universities have found that the most compelling apologies include some or all of these elements:
 
§ An expression of regret
 
§ A statement of empathy for the pain caused
 
§ An explanation of what happened (not as an excuse!)
 
§ An acknowledgment of responsibility
 
§ A declaration of repentance
 
§ An offer of repair
 
§ A request for forgiveness
 
Their results suggest that if you’ve really messed up, you’ll do best if you use as many of these components as possible in your apology. However, the studies clearly showed that some of these components were much more important than others.
 
The researchers found that the single most important part of an apology is an...
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A gift to the relationship(DW# 798)

Relationships experts all agree on one thing: that no matter how evolved we are; we will mess up. Happy relationships are not those devoid of conflict, disagreement or hurt feelings. Even with the best of intentions, we will sometimes fail to live up to our best selves. There will be times that we are tired, stressed and will do and say things that we regret and things that hurt our loved ones.
 
The secret weapon of happy relationships then is not that these things do not happen. It is that people in happy relationships are really good at repairing when they make mistakes. Instead of being defensive, they are humble and recognize that they messed up. They own their mistakes, validate the hurt of their loved ones and learn to apologize effectively.
 
And so, a good apology is a gift to the relationship:
 
Two people can feel secure in the knowledge that if they behave badly, even fight terribly, they can repair the disconnection. We strengthen our relationships...
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Is it enough to ask forgiveness from God?(DW# 770 )

As we have been discussing, it is hard to acknowledge that we messed up, were wrong and have hurt someone.
 
Sometimes, even after we secretly recognize that what we did was not acceptable, we find it hard to acknowledge this in front of the person we have hurt. We may try to convince ourselves that it will be enough if we repent in front of God and ask for forgiveness.
 
After all, it is so much easier asking forgiveness from God, isn’t it? We do not have to confront any of the uncomfortable feelings that will surely surface if we are dealing with another (imperfect) human being who may or may not respond with graciousness and forgiveness.

But here is the thing: if we have wronged or hurt another human being, God will forgive only once we try to make amends with that person. And while our salvation may not depend on whether the other person forgives us, it will surely be impacted by the fact that we tried to make amends with them?

According to Islamic...
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Self esteem and responsibility(DW# 769)

Harriet Lerner inWhy Won't You Apologize?: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts explains how low self-worth stands in the way of taking responsibility and apologizing.
 
Refusing to apologize often reflects efforts to protect a fragile sense of self, she says. According to Lerner, refusing to apologize is fundamentally a sign of insecurity.

"In order to offer a heartfelt apology, a person needs to have a solid platform of self-worth to stand on," she says. "From this higher vantage point, the person can look out at their bad behavior, and they can apologize because they’re able to see their mistakes as part of a much larger, complex, ever-changing picture of who they are as a human being."

Or, as she poignantly puts it, "A non-apologizer walks on a tightrope of defensiveness above a huge canyon of low self-esteem."
Powerful words, right?

When we recognize defensiveness in ourselves, it may help to remember that a powerful way to increase self-esteem and...
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Fear of humiliation, weakness and loss of control(DW# 768 )

Depending on how making mistakes, making amends and apologies were handled in our families when we were growing up, we adopt all sorts of beliefs around apologies and some of them may be rather unhealthy.

Part of maturing and growing as human beings involves taking stock of our dysfunctional beliefs, thought patterns and actions, evaluating their impact and choosing our own path forward.

So let us see if we may be unconsciously harbouring some of these beliefs which stand in the way of taking responsibility for our actions.

If we have a history of being harshly criticized by parents or other important people while growing up, we may find the idea of apologizing humiliating and as a coping mechanism, we may avoid admitting mistakes because of the horrible feelings and memories that apologizing brings up.

Sometimes, these memories are so traumatic that we end up insisting that we have done nothing wrong (or refuse to admit we have done something despite evidence to the contrary).
...
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Fear of vulnerability to emotion(DW# 767)

Apologizing to someone can make us feel emotionally vulnerable, raw and exposed. By apologizing, we open ourselves to bearing witness to someone else’s pain and confronting the possibility that we may be the cause of that distress.
 
Here is how Guy Winch Ph.D. explains the psychology of non-apologizers in Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts:
 
By refusing to apologize, non-apologists are trying to manage their emotions. They are often comfortable with anger, irritability, and emotional distance, and experience emotional closeness and vulnerability to be extremely threatening. They fear that lowering their guard even slightly will make their psychological defenses crumble and open the floodgates to a well of sadness and despair that will pour out of them, leaving them powerless to stop it.

He goes on to explain that it is true that allowing yourself to witness someone’s pain and to apologize makes us...

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The fear of the unknown(DW# 766)

Let’s continue with our exploration of the challenges and barriers to accepting responsibility for our actions.

The truth is that when we apologize for what we did wrong, we do not know how it will be received.

And this fear of the unknown may keep us from accepting fault and making amends.

We may fear that our attempts at repair will be rejected.

The prospect of getting a cold shoulder, of not being forgiven or losing a relationship can understandably be unsettling, especially when it comes from someone we still love, care about and want to maintain a relationship with.

We may also be concerned that apologizing will open the floodgates to further accusations and conflict.

The logic behind this kind of thinking is that once we admit to one or more actions of wrongdoing, surely the other person will pounce on the opportunity to pile on all the previous offences which hurt them and are not yet forgiven. We fear that once we admit to doing anything wrong, it will forever be...

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The difference between guilt and shame(DW# 765)

When we are talking about the conscience and how it guides us towards wise action through remorse, it is helpful to distinguish between guilt and shame.

When we do something wrong, we feel guilty. It is normal and healthy to feel guilt and remorse when we do things that hurt other people or ourselves. This guilt is our internal moral compass that alerts us when we move away from our values and from our sense of right and wrong.

Healthy guilt allows us to see that we can change our behaviours and make amends. And it gives us the motivation to do so. And when we act in accordance with our guilt to make amends, we feel much better about ourselves.

Shame, on the other hand, is different.

While guilt makes us feel bad about our actions, shame makes us feel about ourselves—about who we are. Unlike guilt, shame may not go away when we take actions to repair the hurt that we have caused. And the fear of feeling shame makes us very reluctant to own up to our mistakes and...

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Self protection(DW# 764)

Continuing with our exploration on why it is so challenging to apologize when we have hurt someone, today let’s talk about self protection.
 
As human beings, we are designed to protect ourselves and this includes protecting our sense of self, our ego from feeling badly. We are hard wired to defend ourselves from outside threats, as well as from thoughts and beliefs that lead to a threat to our sense of ourselves as good people.

This is why we do not like to admit that we are wrong. When we admit that we are wrong or have made a mistake, our conscience makes us feel remorse which is an uncomfortable feeling.

 
Of course, we need to remember that our conscience has been designed for precisely this purpose: to make us feel remorse when we fail to live up to our highest values. It is our moral compass. It is what helps us realign ourselves and our actions to our enlightened self-interest and live as humans in the full sense of the word. It is also what ensures that...
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Reminding ourselves of the options(DW#745 )

Some of us need to reminded that even as parents and adults, we do not have to always be in the giving position. That it may be harder to ask for help than to offer it AND if we challenge ourselves to learn to ask for help, we will be doing ourselves and those in relationship to us, a big favour!

So here are some ways to remind ourselves of this:
 
I can share my needs with trusted people.
I can ask for help or advice.
I am not alone, even if it sometimes feels like I am.
I do not have to do it all by myself.
I don’t have to make my life harder than it is at the moment.
 
Contrary to what my thoughts lead me to believe sometimes, it is not reasonable to expect that people "should" know what I need.
 
I can ask to be listened to.
I can ask for a night off from chores. Or a whole day!
I can let others know that I need privacy or space.
I can let others know that I am hurt or upset.
I can share what is really going on for me.
It is okay for me to feel overwhelmed at...
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