Apologizing only seems to get talked about when celebrities mess up real bad and have to plead to Twitter not to cancel them. Which is too bad because when it comes to conflicts in our personal lives, a good apology can go a long way. According to the experts, saying sorry can not only mend the initial hurt but prevent a second dose of harm.
The problem with apologies? Our brains are basically built to hate them. When we’re asked to apologize, our first reaction is to be defensive and essentially see the person we’ve harmed as a crazy person. Instead of accepting their complaint we instead see it as unfounded or exaggerated which prevents us from feeling shame and then we just move on. But while you may have moved on in your head… they haven’t.
And this is where not saying sorry becomes even more harmful. It’s like pouring salt in their wound. Clinical psychologist Molly Howes says when you don’t apologize you “not only have you already let the person down but now you’ve refused to acknowledge a shared reality, which leaves them isolated with their feelings of hurt and/or anger.” And the worst part is that the second wave of pain you’re causing them is completely preventable by simply saying sorry. How rude.
If you’d like to protect others from more hurt, here are Howes four steps for making a good apology:
- Understanding the other person’s experience.
- Making a statement of regret and responsibility.
- Making restitution.
- Preventing repetition.