November 30, 2023

A 4-Step Apology to keep us from Gaslighting those we Love.

*Warning: naughty language ahead!

There are many things in this life that I look forward to with excitement, even gleeful anticipation.

Things I’m more than happy to add to my to-do list or make time for on a busy day.

But apologizing isn’t usually one of those things.

Apologies aren’t fun for most of us, mainly because they highlight the fact that we messed up. We hurt someone. We were unkind. We didn’t consider someone’s feelings. We crossed a boundary. We broke someone’s trust.

In short, we fucked up and now we need to not just acknowledge our fuck up (both to ourselves and to another) but find a way to make things better with whoever we hurt.

That can feel like…well, a lot.

But anyone who’s had to apologize before also knows the emotional healing that comes with receiving a genuine apology.

And herein lies the issue: so many of us were never taught how to offer a genuine apology. 

Often, our apologies are a half-assed attempt to put a Band-Aid on a bullet-hole sized wound and pat ourselves on the back for “fixing” things. We’ve been taught that “I’m sorry” can mend even the most broken of hearts, or relationships. That apologies are something we give out of obligation or expectation because it would be cruel to hurt someone and not say sorry—and we’d never do that because we’re good people, right?

Want to know what I’ve learned? It’s way more cruel to patronize someone with a bullshit, obligatory apology. To minimize their pain by gaslighting them with two simple words that we’re really hoping will just absolve us from feeling bad about ourselves.

As someone who has received more than a few of these apologies (and if we’re being honest, given a few myself), I’ve realized that I would rather never get an apology from someone who hurt me than to get one that isn’t sincere. That isn’t heartfelt. That doesn’t adequately acknowledge my pain. That doesn’t respect that kinds of relationships I’m hoping to repair and rebuild.

And while so many people assume apologies need to be long or complicated, I’ve found that most of the time simple is best. Which is why I love this four-step apology from mom and Tik-Toker Amy Main.

Share this with the half-ass apology givers in your life:

@amyy.main Which apology are you used to hearing? #momhacks #motherhoodunfiltered #momlife #momspiration #momtips #raisingkindhumans ♬ original sound – Amy Main

“Adults nowadays don’t know how to apologize.

In our house we don’t say ‘I’m sorry’ and leave it at that. We teach our children the four-step apology.

I’m gonna tell you the apology that you’re likely used to hearing, and then I’m gonna show you how we teach our children to apologize. And how we apologize as adults.

*What you’re used to hearing *

‘I’m sorry that that hurt you but you kind of provoked me to do that.’

‘I’m sorry you feel that way but this is why I did what I did. What else do you want me to do?’

‘I’m sorry that I haven’t been able to meet your needs in our relationship but I have all this other stuff going on. It’s really hard. What do you expect from me?’

Notice how after they say ‘I’m sorry’ it’s followed with a but. That but is meant to be used to make the issue on you, not take full responsibility for them.

Did I just get apologized to? Or did I just get told why I’m actually the problem?

This is the apology we do in our household:

1. Acknowledge exactly what we did wrong.

‘I’m sorry that I said hurtful things and that I was inconsiderate of your feelings.’

2. Why this was wrong.

‘This was wrong because it’s unkind and it’s not showing love to you. And it’s mean.’

3. What I’m going to do to change.

‘In the future, I’m going to be more intentional with my words. I’m not going to speak unkindly to you.’

4. Asking for forgiveness.

‘Will you please forgive me?’

An apology isn’t an opportunity for me to explain myself. Apologies that are only for us to explain ourselves is manipulating the other person.”


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