Have you ever gotten an apology from someone that seemed insincere and actually made you feel worse? This can unfortunately happen quite often, and make us feel bad about ourselves and our relationships. It seems like quite a lot of people didn't learn how to apologize as children.
This can come from being forced to apologize, without actually having empathy for someone else's feelings. We don't understand why someone "flies off the handle" at what we have said. We don't realize the impact that our words and actions can have on someone else's feelings.
Empathy in society has been decreasing, according to recent studies. According to Psychiatric Times,
Wittingly or unwittingly, we have formed a society that has stopped using the empathy bone in the infrastructure of our being. In past 4 decades, researchers have concluded that empathy has eroded around us overall, with the average person in 2009 being less empathic than 75% of individuals in 1979.
One way we can show more empathy is to apologize in a way that honors the other person's feelings. We need to be truly sorry for having hurt someone, instead of just trying to throw together an apology to get them to calm down and forgive us right away. The apology is about the other person, not about you.
When you apologize, it is important to show regret and remorse for your actions, as well as saying what you will do differently in the future. A true apology acknowledges that you know you hurt the other person, and you are truly sorry for having done so.
Here are some tips from Very Well Mind on things to keep in mind when offering an apology:
Acknowledge that you were wrong
Discuss what is allowed and not allowed in your relationship
Express your regret and remorse
Learn from your mistakes and find new ways of dealing with difficult situations
Open up a line of communication with the other person
If you offer an apology that is half-hearted and insincere, the other person is likely to know this, and their feelings may still be hurt. It is incredibly important to try to take the other person's perspective, and try to understand why they feel hurt.
Don't minimize their feelings, or tell them that they don't really have a reason to feel bad. This will make them feel like you don't take their feelings seriously, and that you don't understand how your own actions have harmed them.
Don't put an excuse into an apology or try to shift blame to the other person. If you make it sound like they got hurt because their feelings are too fragile, then it is not likely to go over well. Owning up to your mistake and accepting blame is important.
Here are some examples of what an insincere vs. a sincere apology sounds like, from Insider:
"I'm sorry but I hope that you can tell me what you need for us to communicate better in the future."
"I'm sorry and I hope that you can tell me what you need for us to communicate better in the future."
The second apology allows the other person to feel honored and heard, instead of feeling blamed for what happened. In order to make a true apology, you need to offer to make repair to the other person for what has gone wrong.
If we can learn to have empathy, and to honor other people's feelings, then we can learn to make a better apology to others. This can benefit all of our relationships. We can work through problems more easily when we are truly willing to make amends to someone else.
It is important not to offer a gaslit apology. According to Sandstone Care,
A gaslight apology is an apology given that often appears sincere but the person is actually not taking any responsibility for what they have caused.
You may receive a gaslit apology from a narcissist, or someone who isn't being sincere with you. They aren't accepting any responsibility for what they have done, or offering repair. Instead, they have shifted the blame to the person who was hurt. They can do this to negate your feelings, and make you come back to the relationship without being upset.
It is important to be able to recognize if an apology is true or false. Many people will offer a false apology if they want you to stop being upset and forgive them. However, they may invalidate your feelings in the process.
These may start out with "I'm sorry that you..." A classic example of this type of apology is "I'm sorry that you feel that way." This type of apology in no way takes responsibility for what happened, and it is key to watch out for this type of apology being offered to you.
When someone is truly sorry, you will be able to tell by their words and actions. They will offer empathy, and offer to make amends for what has happened. They will let you know what they plan to do differently in the future.
If someone is truly offering an apology for what has happened, you still get to decide if you will forgive them. Forgiveness is earned. You can offer it in hopes that things will change, if you believe that someone is truly sorry, and will truly change their behavior in the future.
As we learn how to apologize in a true and genuine way, this can positively impact all of our relationships in the future. Mistakes happen, and it is natural that this will always occur, but it is important to know how to apologize correctly when they do.