(photo credit: (Illustrative photo: Anda Chu/Contra Costa Times/M)
Our relationships are strengthened or weakened by hundreds of small actions and
communications we share with each other.
When we are paying attention and
offer help, empathy or thanks for something, it strengthens our
Insults, neglect and ignoring, whether intentional or not,
create a breach in relationships.
As an example, when your spouse, your
child or your friend expects you to be there for him and you either ignore,
neglect or forget them, that creates a breach in the relationship.
can then lead to resentment by the offended party, who then becomes less caring
and trustful, which may start downward cycle which may lead to a most unwanted
long-term negative effect on the relationship.
An important method of
repairing that relationship is apology. You can help reconnect and heal a wound
with an authentic apology. Marital therapists report that authentic apology is a
very important feature of a healthy marriage.
Psychologists have reported
that there are differences in how males and females see and experience
apologies. A woman apologizes to maintain a relationship and feels good about
her efforts, yet when a man apologizes, he ends up feeling a sense of loss.
Women appreciate the benefit of reconnecting with someone whose feelings have
been hurt, whereas men view the apology as a loss of face.
For a man, it
is admitting he did something wrong, which is an affront to his ego. Men are
more conscious of their status and how their position of power is perceived.
Whereas a woman can feel enriched by the strengthening of the relationship after
her apology, a man can often be left with the feeling of being diminished after
Apologizing is important in all relationships, whether in
parenting or business or other areas of our lives. People are sometimes
reluctant to apologize for the same reason men hesitate to apologize. A parent
or a boss may be concerned with a loss of status. Yet not apologizing when it is
warranted gives the impression that your status is more important to you than
your relationship is with the other person. As parent or executive you also put
yourself in the position of losing credibility by not apologizing. Often, you
need to apologize because you have violated a principle or standard that you
expected the other person to uphold. By not apologizing for your violation, you
are coming across as hypocritical and holding to a double standard. The message
you convey is: It is okay for me to violate it but not you.
The result is
that you end up losing both credibility and respect.
So how should you
apologize? The first step in apologizing is to acknowledge the wrongful act you
did and say sorry. You need to begin by using the first person singular and
saying, “I was wrong and I am sorry.” Second is to acknowledge that you have
hurt the other person’s feelings. Say, “I was wrong and I am sorry that I have
hurt your feelings.” You have to connect what you did to the hurt feelings of
the other person.
Next step is to express your remorse and regret in an
authentic manner and state your intention not to repeat what you did and to make
an effort to act differently. And lastly, to offer to make amends by saying,
“What can I do to make it up to you?” If you are the offended party, it is as
important for you to forgive as it is for the offender to apologize. A healthy,
loving relationship is not possible without forgiveness. You cannot have a
loving and rewarding relationship if you continue to hold (begrudgingly) on to
things that happened in the past. Without forgiving, it means you are holding on
to feelings of resentment and blame, which is very unhealthy for a good
Letting go of resentment and bitterness is a particularly
difficult challenge for people after a divorce. They easily fall into blaming
their ex-spouse for all their perceived hurt and misery.
with their ability to take charge of their life and move forward. I once had a
client who was stuck in such a place and I eventually got him to see things
differently by getting him to agree that it was of his own volition that he
chose to marry his former spouse in the first place. Therefore he had to take
responsibility for his role in both the marriage and its breakup. To withhold
forgiveness is to remain feeling like a victim.
Psychologists have long
emphasized the health benefits of letting go of grudges and bitterness even
without the second party apology. Such health benefits include less stress and
hostility, lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and
chronic pain and lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse.
even those who advocate initiating forgiveness. You can offer it as a gift to
the person who has hurt you, especially in the case of a close, loving
relationship. Strengthening your relationships comes from being able to
forgive.Dr. Mann is a clinical psychologist and certified life coach who
helps teenagers, adults and executives achieve positive goals.