Apologies have been underused, overlooked, and diluted into something that isn't as meaningful anymore. Nope, the words “I'm sorry” just don’t cut it anymore. They’ve been thrown around as a pacification method or a form of rebuttal. So much so that people have doubts about whether the person delivering the apology really meant it.
Sorry has lost its meaning
Doesn't that suck? When our words can't even be taken at face value?
The word “sorry” has been so overused that it often doesn't carry the weight of the full sentiment, but a well-delivered apology can create so much impact, heal wounds, and deepen connections.
I wrote this post “We’ve been doing apologies all wrong” in 2021 when I was with my ex, and I was reminded of this very lesson again with my current love 2 years later. (Psst, you could use apologies to enhance any relationship, even professionally.)
He mentioned something I did that made him feel hurt. He even prefaced it as it’s just something “small”. Instead of dismissing it, I chose to approach the situation differently to help him feel heard and more inclined to communicate and open up more with me.
So, here’s the backstory
I listened and didn’t realize those actions of mine impacted him that way. I acknowledged what I did and apologized, but I also “naturally” repeated the old behavioral patterns I’d learned: I started to muck the entire apology with my own reasonings and justifications for what I did.
Ugh… I could feel it myself as words were fumbling out of my mouth. It felt like an “I'm sorry, but… I'm not?”
No, no! That's what I wanted to convey at all!!
Immediately, I reined in my words and paused when this very lesson reappeared in my mind again.
This one mindset shift, along with the change in how I reacted, made all the difference.
Rebuilding trust with an apology
Here’s an excerpt of my prior realizations and how to express sincere regret and properly defuse the potential conflict:
I came to the rude awakening that… AN APOLOGY IS NOT REALLY FOR YOU. IT’S FOR THE RECIPIENT WHO FELT LIKE YOU WRONGED THEM IN SOME WAY.
If you care about the other person or relationship overall, remind yourself of the bigger picture. Isn’t being in harmony better?
Sincerely apologize, regardless of how you feel about the situation.
Let go of who was right or wrong. Let go of your ego and pride. Let go of debating over the tiniest recollection of the what and why it happened.
Apologize, full stop. Say no more. Let the other person respond.
Your only responsibility after that is to check if the apology landed.
Why? Because if the apology didn’t land, the person you’re talking to is still stuck in the state of being wronged. They cannot mentally or emotionally move on from that holding pattern until they received the apology, which shakes loose of the hold.
It didn’t matter if he prefaced it as “something small”. He… still… felt… hurt.
That was the sentiment I honed in on.
Ultimately, my justifications didn’t matter. He already knew I didn’t purposely do it to hurt him, so why waste more words and time trying to explain away why I did what I did?
Instead, lean into how your partner felt
Acknowledge and own your actions. Use the time to understand why those actions created their hurt and discuss resolutions on how to prevent it in the future. (And genuinely mean it!)
More importantly, follow through with what you’ve both agreed upon. You can only build further trust by doing what you say you would.
The more artfully you both move through these situations together, the less likely you’ll have blow-ups or have bombshells dropped out of nowhere. The impact of a well-delivered, genuine apology can defuse conflict, build further understanding, heal emotional wounds, and restore trust.
Choose to act differently. Make the conscious decision to pivot, even if you’re in the midst of mucking it all up as I did. Notice how your partner starts to respond differently and how your connection has deepened through this emotionally intelligent exchange.
The best part of all this was feeling closer to him after this conversation. We both felt heard through this safe, open space we've intentionally created with each other. We both came into this conversation with aspects that didn't come easy to us, but we still vulnerably put our hearts in each other's hands, trusting in our relationship.
A perfect relationship is a connection that you've cocreated together with your partner. It takes time, intention, patience, and compassion from both sides to make the relationship work. So don't underestimate the power of effective communication skills⏤something that can easily make or break a relationship.
Good luck, and cheers to revamping the way you apologize!
Psst, the featured photo is by Pixabay via pexels