FASHION JOURNAL: What’s Your Apology Language?

Interview in FASHION JOURNAL

When we really mean it, “I love you” and “I’m sorry” are two of the most important and terrifying things we say to one another. Yet they can also be some of the emptiest phrases we lob at one another when we want to dodge deeper conversations. We’re at once reserved and precious about them, yet bandy them about carelessly and haphazardly.

Accepting responsibility

This one is about ending the blame game and ditching the excuses and justifications (The “I’m sorry, but …”s). This is similar to expressing regret, and they often go hand-in-hand, but accepting responsibility goes one deeper. It’s “I’m sorry I hurt you,” plus “It’s my fault” or “I was wrong”. If you have the urge to jump on the defensive with, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to!”, stop right there and replace “I didn’t mean to” with “I did that.”

What it sounds like: “I’m sorry I left you on read, I know you needed a response from me and that would have been frustrating for you.” Or “I’m sorry I’m always late, it doesn’t mean I think my time is more valuable than yours, although I realise now that’s what I’m saying every time I make you wait for me.”

In a friendship or relationship: “Accepting responsibility in a relationship is helpful when you need to hear your partner [or friend] own their behaviour,” says Cholakians.

At work: “If you don’t get along with a colleague or your boss, it can be a hard pill to swallow when you need to apologise,” says career coach Jane Jackson. “However, you apologising and taking responsibility for your actions shows maturity.”

Requesting forgiveness

In the name of full transparency, I don’t fully understand the concept of forgiveness. Doesn’t it just mean letting the other person off the hook? Apparently not. Chapman says that asking for forgiveness is a way of giving power back to the person we’ve hurt. When done right, asking for forgiveness shows that we understand there might be more we need to do to make amends, but we are willing to do it on their terms. The apologisee, rather than the apologiser, set the timeline for forgiveness (aka how long they’re going to leave them on the hook).

What it sounds like: “I’m sorry I left you on read, I know you needed a response from me and that would have been frustrating for you. I’ll initiate the conversation first next time, and I’ll work on my communication and organisational skills. I know I have changes to make, can you forgive me and give me time to prove it to you?” (I know, this apology example is getting pretty intense for an accidental unanswered text, but you get the picture.)

Or “I’m sorry I’m always late, it doesn’t mean I think my time is more valuable than yours, although I realise now that’s what I’m saying every time I make you wait for me. Dinner/coffee/drinks are on me next time. I’ll start setting an alarm so I know when to get ready so I can leave on time. Can you give me another opportunity to do better?”

In a friendship or relationship: “When someone asks you to free them of their guilt, they’re showing you that they’re willing to put themselves and the possibility of rejection on the line,” Cholakians says. “It also relinquishes your sense of justice or righteousness.”

At work: “Being able to apologise this way is a positive sign of maturity, strength of character and authenticity,” Jackson says. “There is power in vulnerability, and owning your mistakes shows that you are human, which is an important trait for all professionals.”

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