There is no BUT in, “I’m Sorry”
There are many known secrets to a successful, fulfilling and long-lasting relationship and marriage. Chief among them is a sense of, “we’re in this together.” In addition, putting each other first, making your partner’s needs a priority and effective conflict resolution skills are also crucial. An important part of conflict resolution is saying, “I’m sorry” in an authentic and genuine way that deepens your intimacy and bond.
What I often say is this: Do you want to be right or do you want to do what works?
I’m a dating coach in New York City where millions of successful and smart men and women mix and mingle day in and day out. Part of the challenge of being among and around smart and successful people is that they can rationalize, intellectualize, and monetize everything.
What does this mean?
It means there is a lot of ego at play, not just in men but also in women. No one wants to admit to screwing up or take the blame for x, y and z.
The thing is this: when you’re in a relationship, prioritizing that union and the other person is tantamount. Often this involves taking one’s ego to the back seat, doing what works for the greater good of the relationship and not being stubborn. Remember, you are on the same team so seeing who can hold out the longest in an argument is unhelpful.
Do you want to be in a relationship or do you want to be in a happy, fulfilling and lasting relationship? It is literally and figuratively up to you.
In my life, I come across many well-meaning people at work, friends, and family members who seem to think that saying, “I’m sorry” is above them. These are some common one-liners I hear in sad, half-assed attempts at an apology:
“I can see how you could see it that way.”
“I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“I’m sorry but it wasn’t really my fault… it was the train, my roommate, my dog, the kids, the alarm clock…
...an endless number of replaceable nouns can fit here.
Or even worse: no apology, attempt, acknowledgement, or ownership. It’s like putting your face in the sand and wishing the problem would disappear magically. NOTHING negative in a relationship magically disappears. Unless you deal with it head on, I promise, it will reappear time and again.
There is a correct way to apologize and by correct I mean one that is effective and will get the desired results (trust, intimacy, connection). Simply put, there are words and actions that will course correct your relationship. I want to reiterate that you don’t have to FEEL that you’re in the right or in the wrong to apologize. After all, each of us is entitled to our perspective and no two people can think, believe and feel exactly the same way about the same event, even one that has just taken place. You are entitled to your truth just as your partner is entitled to his. This is yet another reason to use a coach or a therapist to help untangle these webs.
Here is how you offer a heartfelt apology to reconnect and strengthen your bond:
1. Say the words out loud, “I’m sorry”: No matter what the argument was about, you had a part in it, however small. “I’m really sorry that what I just said hurt you. It wasn’t my intention to hurt you and it just came out like that in a fit of rage.” “I’m really sorry you felt abandoned at the party. I didn’t mean to leave you there by yourself and not pay attention to you when you needed me.” “I’m sorry I was looking at my phone and not paying attention to what you were saying.” There is no BUT in, “I’m sorry.”
2. Ownership: “I take full responsibility for what I said/what I did.” Acknowledge how you made the other person feel. You can’t minimize how the other person feels. It is how the person feels. Period.
3. How will you make it better? “I will make every effort to do better next time.” A genuine apology requires a changed behavior.
4. Will you forgive me?
How NOT to apologize:
-> If you justify, rationalize your words or behavior;
-> Blame the other person (e.g. I’m sorry you’re too sensitive; I’m sorry you feel that way);
-> Make excuses for your behavior (e.g. I’m sorry I was late because the train was delayed, my boss held me up, there was so much traffic);
-> Minimize the other’s feelings (e.g. I have no idea what you’re talking about. Or, that’s stupid you feel that way or any variation thereof).
Put your ego aside. Learning how to apologize with your friends, family members, colleagues and partner in life (people that matter to you), is a critical skill you must practice and master if you want your relationship to go the distance. Shoving problems under the rug, not talking about it or ignoring it only makes the issue fester. Festering will eventually lead to resentment. Nothing good comes of resentment.
Make it right while you still can.
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