The Grown-Up's Guide to Apologizing
Tonight during my weekly viewing of a certain competitive reality show on a certain cable network, I heard something that caused me to mentally stop in my tracks.
What I heard was worse than nails on a chalkboard. It was more unpleasant to me that the sound of teeth scraping ice. I would have rather heard a recording of squeaking styrofoam on loop for three days.
It was the classic “non-apology”.
You know the one. “I am sorry if your feelings were hurt.”
As a human and a therapist, I cringe when I hear this. It hurts me to hear it. This probably sounds like an exaggeration, and maybe it is. Nevertheless, the non-apology is really a terrible thing.
Why is it so terrible? First, it lacks any acceptance or acknowledgement of responsibility or to having played a part in something that was hurtful to someone. It’s a form of deflection. The focus is purposely moved away from what was done onto the person’s reaction.
Secondly, it lacks sincerity. A really good apology will not only acknowledge the apologizer’s role, but also express remorse. An apology without the expression of regret or remorse is hollow.
Being able to apologize a certain way may sound small and perhaps nitpicky. However, a good apology is a sign of emotional maturity.
As hard as it is to admit, we will all hurt someone. Despite good intentions, at some point we will say or do something that negatively affects another person. The emotionally mature person will be willing to admit their actions caused hurt, work to make amends, and then strive to do better.
An emotionally mature person doesn’t need the non-apology. They can recognize that they are not only capable of making mistakes, but
The next time you find yourself in a place of needing to apologize, do so sincerely and unequivocally. Remember that messing up does not make you a bad person. It is a stumbling block on the path of growth. Then take the lesson you’ve learned forward with you to move towards becoming the person you want to be.