According to www.thefreedictionary.com, an apology is "an acknowledgment expressing regret or asking pardon for a fault or offense" and "a verbal or written expression of regret or contrition for a fault or failing." Seems pretty straightforward.
If you want to apologize sincerely, then that means you take full responsibility for your actions, no matter the circumstance, and recognize that the other person may have a point in being offended. Taking partial responsibility and then explaining why you may have been right, doesn’t cut it. For me, a real apology is either all or nothing.
Here are some appropriate examples:
I'm sorry that I was rude to you; it was not my intention to offend you.
I apologize for misunderstanding you. I will try to listen more carefully in the future.
I'm so sorry I did that, it will not happen again.
Can you hear the difference between the examples we used in the beginning of this article, and the ones listed just now? A real apology doesn’t apply blame anywhere else. If it does, then you are not really apologizing for your behavior, all you're doing is saying, “Sorry you misunderstood me”. Essentially you’re suggesting that it is the other person’s fault for interpreting your actions the way that they did.
So, why are these blame reflecting apologies so common? Well, it’s because no one wants to assume fault. No one wants to confess to a potential failing of his or her own, and thus they attempt to pass the blame to another person – either partially or in full. What you need to keep in mind is that it is perfectly normal to recognize and understand the frustration of another person to whom you may owe an apology. There is nothing wrong with that. It is mature behavior, and should be expressed more often in society.
Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Hey, I didn’t mean for this to happen, it wasn’t my intention…so why should I apologize?” Well, you have a point there, but you should still consider the other person’s feelings nonetheless. A simple “I’m sorry” might end the discussion, whereas saying “but you misunderstood me” might cause more problems than you are prepared to handle. Just calmly explain that it wasn't your intent and leave it at that. You can even add that you understand where the other person is coming from and that you will keep that in mind for the future.
After all, how would you feel if you received one of these “fake” apologies? You’d know right away that it wasn’t sincere, or that the guilty party wasn’t really apologizing, but instead just passing the blame. Would you just let it go? Or, would you say something?
That's why it's so important to communicate clearly, compassionately and honestly. When your intent to apologize is sincere, it will get you much further. So next time you feel like saying "sorry you feel this way", think twice and reflect on whether that's a good way to handle the situation.
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