Whether your apology is about something small - like forgetting to pick up some milk, or high-stakes - like admitting to an affair, how you apologise is the difference between being forgiven or not. Take a look at this apology…
“ I’m sorry for being late but I got held up and the traffic was terrible.”
We have all said or heard this before. We meant it as an apology but the message the other person probably heard is, “ I didn’t take enough care to be on time for you - if I blame something else (my workload/traffic) you will be ok with it.”
What about this one…
“ I’m sorry I lied, but you always get so angry.”
The message here is that the other person is actually responsible for the lie. This is a deflection from the issue to transfer the blame, and not going to work as an apology.
Neither of these is an apology because no responsibility has actually been taken, therefore, it is likely to there will be no forgiveness.
We were taught as children to “Say sorry” and we have been able to brush things away ever since. As we got older, we found when we added in a reason or excuse, the blame could be shifted from us to some other person and the apology became simply an entry point to do that: “I’m sorry but…”
We want to take the easy way out when we have done something wrong. This habit can mean some people never learn how to truly apologise. They start out intending to apologise but let themselves off the hook by shifting the blame, then wonder why they haven’t been forgiven.
Here are 3 rules to follow when apologising:
2. Take out the “but…”Apologise, then stop. As soon as you utter the word “but…” you are making an excuse. If you need to explain the circumstances, it is better to start a new sentence by acknowledging facts that you didn’t take into account. For example, “I’m sorry I am late coming home. There was a lot of traffic and I can see I didn’t leave enough time.” This way you are still taking responsibility for your actions and recognise that you need to do things differently.
Which leads us to the next, and most important step…
3. Make it better.
When you acknowledge that you have made a mistake, apologised sincerely and taken responsibility, it is important to outline the way you can resolve the situation, or perhaps a way you will avoid doing that thing next time. Using the first example you might say “If that happens again, I will call you from work to let you know that I have been held back.” Then ask this person if that would be ok – check that you are forgiven.
Although we have used relatively common and ‘small’ apologies as examples, these 3 steps can be your guide when you have made a bigger mistake, even when there is a lot at stake.
Remember, when an apology is sincere, responsibility is taken and reparations are made, forgiveness is usually granted.
Keep these steps in mind and say “Sorry“ like you mean it!
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"I asked you to clean up your room!"
"Put your things away, for the last time!"
Have you ever wondered why the things you say to your kids aren’t being done?
Do you feel like they are ignoring you on purpose?
These are frustrations parents can avoid quite easily – yes, really!!!
Here are 3 surprisingly easy steps to get the message to your child in a way that gives you the results you want:
Step 1: Get their full attention
First things first – we need to make sure we have their attention. If you want your child to listen, it’s really important to use their name to get their attention and make sure they are able to hear you. I know I have wasted my breath asking for something to be done when the kids are engrossed in their favourite TV show or playing some game on a screen (those screens!! yes, I know, but that’s a topic for another time!!)
Step 2: Identify the specific action you would like done.
Yes, we need to be clear about the message. No, that doesn’t mean louder!
It actually means being specific about what you would like your child to do.
When a child hears “Tidy your room”, the actions required around that are not necessarily clear for them. To them, it may look tidy already. Let them know exactly what they need to do to make the room tidy. That may include putting all the toys into the toybox, putting all dirty clothes in the laundry, making their bed: the specifics of what makes their room tidy are up to you. Remember to be clear and specific about what you are asking your child to do.
Step 3: Give them a timeframe.
Now, it could be argued that it wasn’t clear exactly WHEN you wanted that room to be tidied, or that game to be finished – we have to give them points for creative justification, right?! This means for the message to be received by your child and acted upon, it is also important to ask for the job to be done in a certain time frame e.g. “before bed”, “in the next 5 minutes”, or even “now…please”.
Which leads me to…
Step 4: ok, this step is an optional (but recommended) extra… Include a “please or ‘thank you”.
Our children learn respect from us by being treated with respect. We show them how it’s done when we say “please” and “thank you”. Make sure some of these words are in your request.
Taking this all into account, your request would sound something like this:
“Emily, before we leave today, please put all your toys in the basket, put your clothes away and close the drawers.”
Sometimes, we can change it around to appreciate what they will do in advance.
This can sound something like “ Tom, thanks for your help - it’s time to clear up the dinner dishes before I get some dessert ready.”
Perhaps you already do part of this, or even all of these things at different times. But to improve the way your child understands what is expected, make sure to first get their attention, be specific about the task, let them know the time frame and use a ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ in your message.
Vanessa Steele: counsellor, mum, partner, blogger... listening and learning every day.