"Imagine if every person on earth threw themselves fully and completely into their positive obsessions without reservation, regret, or apology. Overnight the world would be a different and better place" - Grant Cardone
Apology - a written or spoken expression of one's regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another – Dictionary.com
Consider the purpose of an apology:
· It lets the recipient know that we accept responsibility for a behaviour which may have led to events that caused discomfort, distress or inconvenience.
· It might provide comfort for the recipient to know that we are aware of the consequences of our actions and therefore less likely to repeat them.
· It might suggest to the recipient that we are prepared to make amends or put the situation right in some way, for example setting someone straight about something that we said or compensating for anything that was lost.
When we know that we are responsible for a mistake or wrongdoing, apologising seems like the ‘honourable’ thing to do. When we know that we are culpable, it is an assertive action to take.
For some of us, making an apology is challenging, even when we know that we are in the wrong. We may find ourselves creating narratives that direct responsibility elsewhere. We may find ourselves employing unconscious behaviours that serve to protect us from blame. Learn about some of these common survival strategies in our book ‘How to Rise – A Complete Resilience Manual.’
Apologising and taking responsibility can be difficult because it offends the ego – an incredibly important aspect of the psyche whose role is to keep us safe. Learn about how to work positively with ego here:
When we make an apology, it is important that we are clear about exactly what we are apologising for. It is also wise to examine our motives. Are we seeking to avoid a backlash? Are we silencing someone? Are we covering for someone? Are we looking for forgiveness? Are we affirming that we have not lost face and that we are still liked or respected? Do we genuinely want the recipient to know that we feel remorse?
To others of us, making apologies comes all too easily. We have all come across someone who feels the need to constantly apologise. Perhaps you recognise this behaviour in yourself. Someone who apologises for everything, for example, being ahead in the queue, taking too long to get off the bus, not having the right change or talking about their own experiences, is employing that behaviour to fulfil entirely different needs from those described above. Apologising for everything sends a very contaminated message. It comes from a place of deep need and is without doubt, attached to negative core beliefs. Read more about these here:
Although self-deprecation is linked with humility, which in recent times has been seen as something to be encouraged, it is a damaging and negative behaviour which leads to affirmation of low self-worth. When we practise this, we are most likely, looking for reassurance of approval and acceptance, the need for which has its roots in childhood. As we have discussed before, as children we were hard-wired to survive. To a child abandonment and rejection equal death and therefore we naturally sought out their opposites. This need has followed many of us into adulthood and fulfilling it continues to give us the illusion of safety.
Habitually apologising also affects how others see us. We might seek to be the quickest to point out our flaws and apologise for them so that we get there before someone else does. This could be because we fear that we are not valuable and do not want to hear it confirmed by others.
We often apologise when we think that we are imparting information that will not be received well for example, when we are unable to babysit or work a Saturday, when we have to share bad news about a relative or when we are giving an unpopular opinion. We may not actually be sorry for any of those things, but it seems to us that apologising will soften the blow or prevent us from being disliked. Being liked is synonymous with the approval and acceptance that have long kept us safe.
We must also be very careful when imparting bad news. Often when we perceive that the recipient will be upset, we feel the need to say that we are very sorry. In these circumstances we are rarely responsible for the distress caused and the apology is not appropriate. Most of us are also in the habit of saying “sorry” when we hear bad news. When we do this, we are injecting our own emotion into the situation. This can leave us feeling depleted as we appear to absorb the sadness or distress of the other person. It also contaminates the communication as the person at the other end is then concerned with how we are feeling. The practice of protecting ourselves, whilst continuing to be of service to someone in distress, is an act of self-care. Read more about being careful with empathy here:
When you next feel the need to make an apology, press pause.
Take your awareness to your breathing. This brings you into the present moment.
Ask yourself what you are apologising for. Is it a wrongdoing for which you are genuinely sorry?
Ask yourself what you hope to gain from apologising. Is it to reassure the recipient that you will not repeat the offence or will make amends? Is it to gain proof of approval? Is it to reaffirm negative self-deprecating core beliefs? Is it because you need to respond but are at a loss as to what else to say? Is it to demonstrate compassion or practise empathy; to share in the pain of another person?
Is this an apology that you are consciously choosing to make?
If this is the case, make your apology with sincerity, clarity, humility, and transparency. It is likely, then, to be appreciated.
If you are unsure as to whether the apology is appropriate, examine your motives further.
When an apology feels inappropriate but automatic and difficult to avoid, consider employing one of the following strategies:
On delivering bad news, have a number of practised phrases to hand. If you are imparting upsetting information you may want to use words like:
“Unfortunately, the scan results were not as we had hoped” instead of “I’m so sorry to tell you that the scan results were terrible” and
“I have some sad news about your neighbour” rather than “I’m so sorry to have to tell you awful news about your neighbour” and
“I respectfully disagree with you” instead of “I’m sorry but you are totally wrong.”
On hearing someone else’s bad news or expressing our concern to a person who has experienced adversity you may wish to express some clear truths. Doing this rather than injecting your own sadness or projection into the situation allows you to better serve them whilst, at the same time, safeguarding your own wellbeing. You may choose to say:
“I can see that this is a really sad for you. Your Mum was lovely” rather than “This is absolutely terrible, I’m so sorry for your loss” or
“I can see that you are disappointed that you didn’t pass your exams. What do you need?” instead of “I’m really sorry that you didn’t pass your exams. What are you going to do now?”
If you are a habitual apologiser, you probably even say “sorry” when someone bumps into you in the street. We find that a quick “oops!” is most useful and generally lightens the mood without any blame being apportioned. Accidents are just that. They do not usually have a perpetrator and they do not have to be an opportunity to berate the Self.
As usual, set the intention to connect with the observing part of your psyche with gentle curiosity. This is the part of you that witnesses thoughts, emotions and behaviours but is not the part that does the thinking, feeling, and behaving. Sometimes the very practice of observation is enough to affect positive change. Witnessing habitual apologising and connecting it to issues around self-worth can, in itself, bring us up short and increase our awareness so that we are careful not to affirm anything that does not serve us. You can read more about how to do this in ‘How to Rise – A Complete Resilience Manual.’
In short. When you stand in your own authenticity, you are magnificent! There is nothing to apologise for here!