What not to say or do when apologizing to someone

    Apologizing gone wrong

    By Steve Wickham

    APOLOGIES, genuine ones, have the power to redeem what was lost. To redeem what was lost is to get something worthwhile back. When we have said or done something bad the ability to ‘make it right’ through an aptly convincing apology gives both parties the chance of another opportunity. But here is a list of things to avoid:

    1. Say one thing and mean another: words and tone that are mixed incongruently with body language only get us into trouble. It’s no good saying sorry if we have a smirk to go with it or we cannot commit to any eye contact.

    2. Delay the apology: dragging out the inevitable does us no favours. Get it over and done with.

    3. Take the apology back: nothing wrecks credibility more than when we prove we never truly meant the apology when we take it back shortly after we give it.

    4. Using an apology to get back: is there any wonder people get angry at us when we’ve abused the use of apology to accuse them of their ‘wrongdoing’?

    5. Beat around the bush: in the process of actually saying sorry we have too much pride to actually say the words. In other words, we don’t have the humility needed.

    6. Use the apology to make excuses for our behaviour: we don’t gain credibility by excusing our behaviour, we lose it. Apology is not the time for standing up for ourselves.

    7. Ignore the need to apologise: this is the worst. Pretending that no apology is required, by saying “I have nothing to apologise for,” is pure contempt.

    8. Go and do the wrong thing again straight away: and prove we’ve learned nothing.

    9. Have nothing to back up our sorry: when we say sorry we need to be ready to answer the challenge, “If you truly understand you’ll prove genuine when I probe.” Having apologised, we can expect to be challenged to prove that we meant it.

    10. Not seeking forgiveness: what use is the apology if we don’t care enough about the relationship to seek their forgiveness? Seeking forgiveness says, “I don’t take for granted that everything is suddenly better just because I said sorry.”

    11. Expecting to be forgiven: as has been mentioned immediately above, we ooze pride if we expect that everything is automatically okay having said sorry.

    12. Having no intent to do better next time: sorry says I’ll do better next time. If we don’t intend that or don’t do the work to repent properly our apology will reveal us a fool.

    13. Speaking about the issue with others: any time after we have apologised we are best either saying nothing or saying only exactly what we said. If we introduce different information later we blur the lines of our apology.

    14. Stew about their reaction: one thing we have no control over is their response. They who we have apologised to have every right to respond any way they like. Our apology needs to be so genuine that we have no condition on the other person.

    15. Doubt their sincerity: if, in us having apologised, they commit to some form of action and they don’t carry through, we need to exercise grace, and pray they will be self-aware enough to apologise. We cannot doubt their sincerity.

    16. Play games with people using apology: this is just the worst.

    17. Entertain second thoughts: a good apology is made sincerely and then we move on without entering into secondary correspondence with ourselves.

    18. Be cheap on words and flat on action: apologies fall flat if they cost nothing of the person saying sorry.

    19. Pretend that it never happened: when an apology is given it is part of history; it happened.

    © 2015 S. J. Wickham.

    Steve Wickham is a Baptist pastor who holds Degrees in Science, Divinity, and Counselling. Steve writes at: http://epitemnein-epitomic.blogspot.com.au/ and http://tribework.blogspot.com.au.


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