Most apologies are not true apologies, and they actually add more hurt on top of the person who was hurt. Listen to this episode to learn the 9 most essential ingredients of a true apology. Using these tools will help you to repair hurts that were done and strengthen a relationship so it can move forward in safety.
Welcome to the Coaching Your Family Relationships podcast, where I help you navigate the detours and your family relationships, you’re listening to Episode 54. Apologizing will help repair and strengthen a relationship.
Every family encounters detours along the road of life. You don’t always have a say in what you get handed. But you do have a say in what you do with it. I’m Tina Gosney, a family relationship coach. And I’m here to help you navigate those detours. So they don’t seem so overwhelming. Each week, I’ll talk to you about how to find your way. And I’ll give you two takeaways and one challenge. Knowledge, action and coaching, working together will make all the difference. You don’t have to let your detours define you or your family. Join me on this podcast. And let’s tackle this together.
A special thank you to all who have come to my recent master classes in May and June, about repairing relationships and your family. And we’re going to be offering another masterclass at the end of July. And it’s going to be all about having hard conversations. If there’s one thing that I get asked consistently. It’s about how do I have hard conversations, I put them off, I avoid them, I do everything I can to not have hard conversations.
It’s one of my most popular classes that I’ve ever taught. And I’m offering it to you at the end of July. Registration is not open yet, but it will be soon. So if this sounds like something that you might need some help with, I want you to get on my email list. If you’re on my email list, you’re going to be notified directly into your inbox when the registration opens. So check the link in the show notes to get on that list. Because you are not going to want to miss this masterclass.
Now, just a few days ago, I returned home from a four day camp with some girls, teenage girls in my church. And we had about 30 girls in our group. And they are just a spectacular, wonderful group of girls just came to love them even more than I had before. Before we this camp, even though we have 30 Girls, there’s still a handful of them that have a really similar names. Either they have the same name, the same first name, or their names are just so similar that it’s super easy to get them mixed up.
Now, at the end of this camp, we had a very spiritual moment, it was like the peak spiritual moment of the camp. And there were three of us adult leaders at the end of that, if that moment and the first adult leader called one of the girls the wrong name. And I saw her face just drop. Here she was in this peak spiritual moment had been called the wrong name. And I could tell she just felt so unseen. And I mentioned it to this leader.
I said, Hey, did you call her this other name? And this leader said, Oh, yes, I did. I can’t believe I did that. And I could tell this other leader felt so bad for what had happened. I later heard that this same leader took this girl aside and apologize to her. This leader didn’t make excuses. They didn’t justify and say, well, there’s so many girls with the same name. It’s so easy to get them mixed up. Didn’t turn it around and say, Do you even know what my name is?
You’ve called me the wrong name plenty of times. Nothing like that happened. It was just a pure apology. And I was so impressed by this leader. And for the follow up for the mistake. And I think that demonstrated what a true apology looks like. It’s so rare to see true apologies. Because most of the time, you’re going to have one of two scenarios. So someone comes to you and tells you that they’ve been hurt by something that happens. This actually takes a lot of courage, and it creates a vulnerability and for that person that’s opening up.
However you react to them determines whether they’re going to feel safe with you opening up to you again, or if you shut down that safety. So if you shut down that safety by how you react, you’re creating more hurt and more disconnection in their relationship. So that sometimes happens but most of the time, the person doesn’t even come to you and tell you anything. It doesn’t mean that they haven’t been hurt. Maybe they even laughed at what you said when you originally said it.
Or they just seem to brush it off and and not have it affect them. You know, what happens is when someone’s hurt, they are already feeling inside, they’re feeling very triggered and speaking up for themselves, voicing their hurt is often too overwhelming in the moment. So they choose to stay quiet, they choose to go along with whatever the consensus is in the room are with you, just to create a situation that they can get out of, and go and feel their hurt all alone.
But when it happens, when the hurt happens over and over again, the hurt is compounded, the hurt is still there in our bodies, it just changes form. Even if it’s not expressed in words, it will come out a different way. It might come out by withdrawing from a relationship or withdrawing at a conversation, it might come out by like walking on eggshells around someone, just being really, really cognizant and aware of what you’re saying and carefully picking your words so that you don’t set the other person off. It might look like being overly sensitive to things that seem small to you.
But those things are not small to them. It might look like anger or explosiveness. And sometimes it becomes so internalized, sometimes that hurt is so internal, and compounded that it begins to cause health problems. There’s a book called The Body Keeps the Score. And this book is revolutionary. It’s one that a lot of people are talking about. And it really talks about how the hurt that we internalize the things that we internalize the things that we just let build up and take over inside of our bodies without expressing the hurt in a healthy way.
Those things start affecting the way that our body works. And not just our emotional health, but really in a significant way our physical health as well. Now, the truth is that most people don’t tell you when you’ve said something that hurt them, they’re going to withdraw. Because it feels dangerous to bring it up. We really want to connect with people, especially when they’re right there in front of us. And if we say something that we feel might be disconnecting, we stuff it down instead.
Now if you’re observant, you’ll be able to tell by what you see them do, and how you see them start to act and react around you. Because opening up and telling someone that you’re hurt in the moment that you’re hurt, is often too big for most people. So instead, they carry around the hurt and they let it compound over time. And they just don’t want to be around you anymore. Another thing that’s also true is that most people will offer an apology, that isn’t really an apology, it’s just a justification and excuse a turning the tables situation where then they can put the responsibility back on the shoulders of the person who is expressing the hurt.
When we offer apologies this way, it creates bigger and bigger rifts in our relationships. Think of how many opportunities there are to apologize. In our family relationships. We hurt each other so often, so many opportunities to hurt each other. We also have so many opportunities to apologize to each other. But when we apologize in the wrong way. It keeps the relationship very surface because it doesn’t become safe to open up and say what we’re really thinking.
And when you would justify or excuse or turn the tables in an apology. It tells the other person that it’s not okay to have or express feelings around you that you don’t really want to know them more than you do right now. Because you’re not willing to go to that emotionally uncomfortable place with them. What it really does is say much more about you than it does about them. But in that moment that they are opening up to you. It feels very personal when they’re rejected. I wrote a blog post a couple of years ago about the nine essential ingredients of an apology.
And I took this list from Dr. Harriet Lerner. Now Dr. Lerner is a psychologist. She’s written many books. She has been involved in this type of work since she was a child. In fact, she says she says my mother’s believe in therapy undoubtedly contributed to my early career choice. I decided to become a psychologist before finishing kindergarten. A decision I never veered from. She has some great books. In fact, one of them is all about apologizing.
It’s called Why won’t you apologize?
And I took this list these nine things from Harriet Lerner. So let’s go over what these nine essential ingredients of a true apology are. The first one is, it does not include the word. But such as, I’m sorry, but I hope you’ve learned your lesson. Or I’m sorry, but you’ve done things to me too. When you use the word, but anything after that word, disqualifies the I’m sorry, it tells the person that you’re not really sorry. It’s not a real apology, it’s an explanation.
It’s a justification, it’s a turning the tables on the other person, it puts the responsibility back onto them, instead of keeping it focused on you. The second essential ingredient is it keeps the focus on your actions, and not the other person’s response. Such as well, I’m sorry, that that’s such a sensitive subject for you. That type of statement puts the responsibility back on them, telling them if they weren’t so sensitive, there wouldn’t be a problem.
Or maybe something saying something like this, I’m sorry, you decided to be offended, but being offended, it’s a choice, you know, again, it puts the burden back on the other person. And it’s, it’s an attempt for you to justify what you want to say without being responsible for any of it. That’s not a true apology. The third ingredient is it includes an offer of repair that fits the situation, such as, What can I do to make this better?
And if you ask that, what can I do to make this better than just listen? Just listen, to understand not to interpret what it means about you. Just ask the person, what can I do to help this? What can I do to help make the situation better. The fourth ingredient is it is not overdue. Such as I’ve heard this many times, saying something like I’m so sorry, you have me for a mother, you deserve better than me, I should just get out of your life right now, you probably don’t even want me around.
Again, this type of overdoing puts the burden back on the person who expressed the hurt, it makes it more about you than about them, keep the focus on them. Number five is it doesn’t get caught up in who’s more to blame, or who started it. You know, so often we don’t apologize, because we see all the faults in the other person.
And we refuse to recognize it in ourself. When when they tell us how they’re hurt. We want to reciprocate and tell them how they’ve hurt us. This is a no win situation. So resist the urge to do it. If you want to express your own hurt, because you probably have it, we just go around hurting each other. That’s what humans do. So if you want to express that hurt, save it for another time, allow that person to be heard and understood in that moment. And take responsibility for your part.
Even if it’s only 5% Take responsibility for your part in the situation. The next one is it requires you to do your best to not repeat. So if you don’t try hard to not do it again, it wasn’t a true apology, saying you’re sorry, and not putting any effort into changing in the future is meaningless. And it doesn’t take long for the other person to see that. And for them to not trust you again. The seventh one is it should not be given to silence the other person. For example, I said I’m sorry.
So stop bringing it up again. And again, let’s just get over it. Just forget it and move on. That is not an apology, because human souls carry deep wounds. And often we need for those wounds to be acknowledged before we move on. Now, if you don’t acknowledge it, they’re left to do that on their own without you, which can be done with some help. But it will also create distrust in your relationship in the future. Number eight is this apology shouldn’t be offered to make you feel better if it makes the other person feel worse.
So you know some people have severed relationships because of a tremendous past repeated hurt. And you don’t need to press the opening up in that relationship again, to make yourself feel better with an apology. Imagine you had an alcoholic father, and that was extremely traumatic for you as a child. And now that father is going through the 12 step program. And one of those steps is to make amends. Maybe you don’t want to hear from your father again.
Maybe you’ve closed that door and having him press an apology, so that he can fulfill that 12 step or that need to make amends in his life triggers things for you. It is not the time to apologize if apologizing to that person makes them feel worse so that you can feel better. The last one is an apology, a true apology, doesn’t ask the other person to do anything, not even forgive. When you apologize, do it for your sake. Not so the other person will forgive you.
Do it because it’s who you want to be. Requiring forgiveness is another form of hurting that person. Let that person do that if and when they are ready. Now, last week’s episode directly ties into this one, when you apologize, because it’s who you want to be ties into what I was talking about last week. And who do I want to be in this relationship, you get to choose at all times who you will be and how you will show up in a relationship with another person. So you can do that with an apology. And you can also do that with not requiring them to forgive you. So if you haven’t listened to that episode, I highly recommend that you go and listen to last week’s episode.
Now, when you apologize, there are some things that are going to make it really difficult for you to do that. And I’ve just listed some of them, I could go on probably a half an hour, just listing the things that are going to be hard for you about apologizing. But here’s just a handful of some things that might come up for you. You might think that the other person doesn’t deserve an apology, because they have some fault, too. That is true.
Because humans hurt humans, and we just do that to each other. We all should be apologizing. But to feel to think that someone doesn’t deserve an apology because you’ve been hurt. It perpetuates more hurt. It perpetuates disconnection in a relationship. You also are going to want to point a finger at them. This is your fault that this has happened, you’re going to want to justify your side, as humans are one of our natural tendencies is to justify the things that we do, you’re going to want to justify your point of view, and tell this other person that they don’t have a reason to be hurt. You’re going to think that if you do apologize that you deserve to be forgive.
But that is not true. That is also perpetuating hurt. You have to let people work through their emotions on their own timetable. Now when someone tells you how they’ve been hurt by you, it’s human nature to be defensive and try to justify it. It’s human nature, but the natural human, The natural man is an enemy to God. We are here to rise above our human nature and become better. So don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to say one of these things. Well, I’m not perfect.
Why are you expecting me to be perfect? Well, you did this and this and this. I guess I just can’t do anything, right. So I’m going to stop trying. Oh, you’re just being too sensitive. You need to get over it and move on. I was just trying to help you. Well, we all have our faults, don’t we? Well, it’s your choice to be offended. You always make such a big deal out of things. Why can’t you just let them go? I’m so tired of you bringing this back up time after time.
Can’t you just let go of it. Okay, those are super common things that you might be tempted to say. But all of those things bring the attention back to you. Instead of addressing the hurt that the other person is sharing with you. it invalidates their experience and it reinforces to them that you are not a safe person for them to open up to. It dismisses them. It dismisses their experience, and they don’t feel understood and they don’t feel loved.
And when someone comes to you and they open up their hurt and their pain to you, you’re in a very vulnerable spot. It feels dangerous to them because being vulnerable feels dangerous to all of us. We don’t like to open up the parts of us that we keep hidden. But when someone tells you that they’re hurt, they’re opening up a very vulnerable part of themselves. It’s much easier to stuff that pain down and let the hurt fester underneath the surface.
So that’s what most of us do. Do. But when someone opens up, they’re asking for more in their relationship with you. They’re asking to move it beyond the surface niceties. And to get real. They’re asking for a more true and authentic relationship, one that you can express hurt and then repair. Because a relationship that is repaired is stronger than a relationship where that hurt has never been expressed.
I’ve spent the last several years apologizing to my children and my husband for a lot of things. And for the most part, these were times where my family did not come to me. But I had done some introspection about the past. And it wasn’t proud of myself and some of the ways that I had shown up. Even though I remember at the time, I was doing the best that I could. But the best that I could still cause hurt the people that I love.
And I knew I was going through a lot at the time. But I saw that even though that’s what was happening for me, there was some pain that I caused other people through my words and my actions. Now sometimes the things that I apologized for happened years ago, it up it up to even 20 plus years ago. And I just wanted to acknowledge that I didn’t show up very well. And I was so sorry for the pain that I caused them. Sometimes it was for a period of time, a period of years that I didn’t show up very well. And I caused some deep pain because of it, I could have easily said well, that’s in the past, let’s just forget about it and move on.
We don’t need to bring up the past. But I wanted to acknowledge that it happened. And then I was sorry for it. And then we were able to move on from a much cleaner place. And that has made so much of a difference. Sometimes I apologize for things that happened the day before. And I just didn’t want to let time go by without clearing up that I was so sorry. Now as I’ve been doing these apologies, I’ve been met with some varying reactions.
Sometimes it was Oh, thanks. But you know, I’m totally okay. And I forgotten about it. I didn’t even remember that until you brought it up. Gone from that and all the way to tears with you will never know how much it means to me for you to apologize. That makes all the difference. And there was many tears on both sides. Now, I don’t tell you this because I believe I’m an expert at apologizing. In fact, I think it’s something that I’m very much still working on and trying to get better at. But I am telling you this because it is possible to apologize and repair relationships and strengthen them and to connect more deeply through your apologies.
Now here’s your two takeaways today. You can use an apology to create more safety and repair in a relationship. When you use the steps that I’ve outlined, you can begin to create your safety. When you create safety, it’s okay to start repairing. And when a person feels safe with you, they are much more forgiving in the future. That’s TAKEAWAY NUMBER ONE.
Takeaway number two is that you are going to become a better version of yourself if you open up to truly apologizing. Because truly apologizing requires you to dig past the human, the natural person, The natural man that wants to justify and be defensive. It allows you to practice calming and soothing your own nervous system enough to truly listen to what someone else is telling you.
And it’s never too late to apologize whether something happened an hour ago, or 40 years ago. Apologize because it’s who you want to be and how you want to show up. And now here’s your challenge. Go back through that list of nine essential ingredients of an apology. Find the one that resonates with you about where you want to start. Then find a family member to apologize to keeping that essential ingredient in mind. This is practice you’re not going to do it perfectly, but at least you’re going to begin breaking a cycle. Apologizing requires courage and vulnerability.
But both of those things will open you up to more safety and connection in your relationship with that person. I’m going to give you Those nine essential ingredients again. So you don’t have to go find them. Here’s your list.
Number one does not include the word but number two, keeps the focus on your actions and not the other person’s response. Number three includes an offer of repair that fits the situation. Number four, it does not overdo. Number five, doesn’t get caught up and who is more to blame or who started it. Number six, requires you do your best to not repeat. Number seven, should not be given to silence the other person. Number eight, shouldn’t be offered to make you feel better if it makes the other person feel worse. And number nine, does not ask the other person to do anything, not even forgive.
Those are the nine things in a nutshell. Which one are you going to take the challenge of using this week. Now remember, if you are interested in attending my masterclass at the end of July, about having hard conversations, I want you to go to my email list and join. If you join that email list, you’re going to be notified directly into your inbox when their registration is starting to happen. Now, I also want you to remember that your detours and disappointments do not define your family and they don’t define you. Have a great day and I’ll see you next week.