The Power of Apology

The Power of Apology
| 3 Minute Read |

I reckon one of the most vulnerable things you can ever step into is an apology.  A real apology.  To admit that you really got something wrong, that you’ve caused hurt or distress to someone else with your actions.   That’s difficult.  We will naturally become defensive, emotional.  But to say “I’m sorry” properly is so vital to human connection.  Vital to trust.

There is incredible healing power in a REAL apology, one which comes from the heart and is actually about the person who you have hurt NOT about you.

I learned about this in the deepest possible way when I was working with my daughter, helping her navigate through my divorce from her father.

You may have already read my article ‘Would you kiss Mickey Mouse with that mouth?’, where the overwhelming emotion of all that we’d been through got the better of me.  And while I did apologise for that particular outburst, that specific incident was not the main turning point for the relationship – that needed a much bigger apology than that.

ApologiesI once heard an interview with Harriet Lerner PhD talking about the power of apology and one particular comment stuck with me,

“Apologies are very healing, but when apologies are absent, it will compromise a relationship and can lead to the end of a relationship.”

I heard this interview the same week I took part in a session at work about trust.  A question we had to answer was: “When have you forgiven someone after they have broken your trust?”

As I sat reflecting on the question, I realised that the answer for me was never.  That shocked me.  To be clear, at that time, it took a great deal to break my trust – the joy of being a ‘people pleaser’.  However, once broken – my trust had never been regained.

At first, I felt terrible about it – what did it say about me? Am I cold and unforgiving? Then, as I ran through my mind the few times that trust had been broken, I started to see a common theme.  Not once on those occasions had I received a REAL apology.  Not once did the individual take any accountability, but instead gave all the justifying reasons for their behaviour.  It was all about them.

With this in mind, there was no question in my mind that to navigate all the change that divorce would bring for my daughter, it was VITAL there needed to be a foundation of trust.  I couldn’t see any way to ensure that trust than to be entirely and gut-wrenchingly honest with her.  She deserved a bloody good and sincere apology, and the only control I had over that was MY apology.  This was about my relationship with her.

Taking accountability and showing that you’ve really listened and you understand the impact you’ve had on someone else is vital.  Sometimes people lack the ability to take accountability because, in their mind, they hadn’t INTENDED to cause hurt.  Well, intentions are irrelevant.  Hurt can often be caused by doing nothing, by not stepping in and taking action.    So with a lot of tears and many deep breaths, I took ownership for what I HADN’T done.  Taken ownership for what I ignored.

And so, the apology that turned our relationship around also helped create the approach to life we would take in our new home together.   Honesty, humour and love.  We don’t always get it right – but we always make sure apologies are real.

Anyone you might owe an apology to?  You might even strengthen a relationship if you do it well.

6 replies
  1. Alison Beck says:

    Jean, it has taken me all this time to sit down and read your blog as life is so crazy at the mo. I am so glad I did. This article is so true and powerful. Thank you x


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