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the RELATIONSHIP dance WITH VICKI MINERVA How to Apologize Well! I t’s hard to measure the value of a heartfelt apology. Relational mistakes and disappointments are inevitable so learning how to apologize can affect your satisfaction in the relationship. If you know you’ve hurt someone, YOU get relief by acknowledging that you’ve caused harm. The guilt that results causes shame and distance from people you care about. It takes strength to admit you’ve done something to affect the relationship, but it is the emotional currency that keeps it healthy and strong. If you’re the wounded party, an apology can bring release from hurt and resentment that can become chronic. Typically there is a desire for reconciliation when a wrongdoing has broken a relationship. If that doesn’t occur, things can escalate to a need for justice and the relationship becomes a secondary concern. There are some helpful principles that make apologies work more effectively. Gary Chapman and Jennifer M. Thomas in their book, “Five Languages of Apology,” give some insight to how to make a better connection. People have different “languages” that speak of genuine regret. See if you can find yours and that of the other person: • “I’m sorry.” Expressing regret can make an immediate difference to help the wronged person release their misgivings. Even if the wrong has been corrected, without the acknowl- edgement, it may not be satisfying because there’s no evidence that you know the effect you’ve had. Verbally acknowledging what you’ve done lets them know that you understand their feelings and the hurt you’ve caused. • “I was wrong.” Accepting responsibility doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. It’s an acknowledge- ment that something you did was hurtful and you take responsibility for your part. The ability to say, “I made a mistake” can be incredibly healing for the person who hears this apol- ogy language. It shows them that you understand where the problem was. • “What can I do to make it right?” Making restitution is the process of paying back or making up for the hurt you’ve caused. In 12-Step programs, it’s called Making Amends. It may be as simple as “I made a mess of this, I’ll clean it up.” In other instances, the hurt may be deeper as in fearing the loss of love or respect; “How could you do this if you love me?” So, for example if there has been infidelity, restitution may be demonstrating that your loyalty is to your partner (not the person you had the affair with) by being transparent about your activities and the use of your electronic devices. • “I’ll try not to do that again.” Changing your ways is important when actions need to speak louder than words. It’s not enough to say you’re sorry if you repeatedly do the same thing over and over again. This may need to include a plan for what you can do differently next time to help change the outcome. be ready to forgive. Be patient. Even when forgiveness occurs, be aware that it doesn’t necessarily restore trust. That can take some time with lasting changes demonstrating that things are different. If you’re speaking different languages, a sincere apology can be totally missed. “He came home and helped with the dishes, but he never acknowledged the mean things he said before he left!” or “Sh e said she’s sorry, but she didn’t act like it. I can’t see any remorse.” You may be apologizing in YOUR language, but it will only connect if you’re speaking THEIR language. There can be words of apology that aren’t an apology. “I’m sorry I blew up, but you were being so irritating,” is blame shifting. “I’m sorry you took it the wrong way” is different than “I’m sorry I hurt you.” If you take on a victim stance, “I’m such a horrible person, I’ll never get over this.” instead of taking responsibility for it, you manipulate the hurt person to take care of you. These don’t take responsibility and lack sincerity. A sincere apology will name the offense and take responsibility for it. It will truly make a difference as your actions match your words over time. The ability to apologize shows strength and integrity, not weakness! • “Will you forgive me?” Requesting Vicki Minerva has lived and worked in the South County area as a Marriage and Family Therapist for over 35 years. Her education includes a M.Div. degree from Fuller Seminary and a M.A. in Marriage, Family Counseling from Santa Clara University. forgiveness can be humbling. The answer may be “Yes,” “No,” or “I’m not ready yet.” For some people, and for some offenses, this may be essential to complete the process and move to healing and reconciliation. It may take some time for the ‘for- giver’ to work through their hurt to My goal is to provide you with some information and help you access tools that will help you live your life and manage your relationships in healthier ways. This information is not a substitute for personal counseling and should not be taken out of context. There are many reputable therapists in the South County area should you need additional help. 94 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018