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How to Give a Perfect Apology


From the author of "Fight Less, Love More"



puhn
March 2012

Have you ever heard the words, "I'm sorry," and instantly thought, "Oh no you're not."

You knew the apology sounded insincere from the moment your spouse opened his or her mouth.

Or maybe you were the one who put your foot in your mouth when you revealed something personal to your parents that embarrassed your honey.

Whatever the error, don't allow it to ruin a nice evening or a good relationship.

When a simple "I'm sorry" isn't enough, it's time for you to use the perfect three-step apology, which will give you the forgiveness you want in five minutes or less.

Step 1: Make a mountain out of a molehill

While it's our natural instinct to minimize our mistakes by saying "I didn't really mean it," or "It's no big deal," doing so will only aggravate your partner.

Instead, if you go big and maximize your error with a comment like, "I made a huge error," or "It was really awful of me to do that," then your mate would be relieved knowing that you get how wrong you were, and that sentiment will go a long way toward reducing the anger.

Step 2: Use the "because" clause

When someone is mad at you for your wrongdoing, it's because they feel disrespected, insulted, hurt or ignored. What seems like a small thing, such as telling your children about your husband's flaw (like his forgetfulness), is more than that to your husband. It's disrespectful and rude to put him down to your children or anyone for that matter.

So dig deep and say you're sorry for the deeper value that was undercut. Use the word "because," to share exactly how you hurt your mate, as in "I'm sorry I talked negatively about you to our children because it was disrespectful of me and it makes them think they can put you down too."

Step 3: Prevent and repair

This is the crucial part of a perfect apology. Complete your apology conversation by explaining to your mate how you will fix the damage done, or offer a plan of action to prevent the mistake from recurring.

For instance, if you opened your big mouth to your children, you can assure your mate that in the future you won't share your frustrations with the kids. Plus, you can grant your mate permission to interrupt you and remind you of your agreement, if you begin to make the same mistake again.

But what if your mate is the guilty party? Coach him or her into giving a perfect apology. Ask your mate to explain what he/she is sorry for, and how he/she can prevent the mistake from happening again (and you can offer suggestions).

Once you've both agreed to a practical prevention plan, bury the mistake and move on to enjoy your time together.

Laurie Puhn is a Harvard-trained lawyer, couples mediator, relationship expert, and bestselling author of Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In. You can find her online at fightlesslovemore.com.

Tags: In This Issue, Parenting

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