Get clear about your intention before you even begin the conversation and stay true to it.
This will help you to stay on purpose without getting sidetracked by distractions that inevitably come up in heated conversations. Remembering that your job isn’t to prove that you’re right, but rather to demonstrate that you can be trusted to listen non-defensively and respect your partner’s feelings, and to show that you truly care about them and what they have to say.
Keep in mind that silence does not equate with agreement and just because you are not arguing with someone, you’re not necessarily seeing everything their way, but rather you’re simply giving them a chance to express their perspective.
Be curious, rather than adversarial. Find out what your partner needs from you in order to find resolution to the upset rather than assuming you already know. Even if they don’t tell you anything that you don’t already know, your sincere interest in their needs will communicate the kind of caring that they need in order to begin to trust you again.
Don’t be quick to ask for forgiveness.
Your partner may experience your request for forgiveness as just one more thing that you are trying to get from them. They probably will need more time than you think they “should” in order to adequately process their feelings.
Keep in mind that forgiveness is a process, not an event. Apologies can be and often are an essential part of that process. While the words of your apology are important, equally important, if not more so, are the behaviors that you demonstrate during and after the process of apologizing. As the saying goes, talk is cheap; it’s actions that really tell you what a person’s true intention is.
There’s a difference between talking the talk and walking the walk.
But whatever your metaphor of choice happens to be, the key to effective apologies has to do with the depth of your sincerity to embody your words in a way that shows your partner that you have learned and integrated some critical lessons that you both will continue to benefit from.
Apologizing gets easier with practice, and if you’re like most of us, you’ll get plenty of opportunities for that, and each one can strengthen the qualities that great relationships require, including compassion, vulnerability, patience, commitment, and intentionality, to name a few.
In the process it becomes possible to not only restore love and goodwill to your relationship, but to upgrade it beyond the level where it had previously been.
So don’t try to avoid acknowledging your part in future breakdowns (and there will be more), but rather, take advantage of the opportunities to demonstrate your commitment to your partner and your relationship by providing sincere apologies when they are called for. If you can offer it to your partner before they express their disappointment or upset, so much the better.
Remember: apologizing doesn’t make you less of a person; it is more likely to make you more worthy of respect in the eyes of others. It is a reflection of integrity, not of weakness. And it will enhance, not diminish the strength of your relationship.
Are those enough reasons to apologize?
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Written by Linda and Charlie Bloom
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