Learn How To Apologize


“I’m sorry.” Do you know how difficult this little phrase can be? It is our best “measure” of how defensive or open and vulnerable someone might be at any point in time. Ordinarily, if you’ve done something “bad” and you can’t say you’re sorry chances are you’re being defensive and there will be a question as to whether or not you are really sorry for what you’ve done. Make sense?

Let’s up the ante a bit. If you are in love with someone, do something “bad” and don’t say a sincere sorry, there’s a problem. Look at it this way, ready? You can’t be in love and not have to say a sincere I’m sorry from time to time.

OK what’s with the word “sincere” in that statement? Thought you’d never ask. Sincere apology means that you really really mean it. No bull#&%$. We all have a built in “sincerity reader” you know. Whether or not you are conscious of the fact you are being lied to, the fact of the matter is deep deep down inside you know it. You’ve just turned down the volume on that “sincerity reader” I just told you about.

So being in love requires the practice of apology. One assumption that goes with this is, you can’t be in a relationship without getting hurt from time to time. The fact that there are two people in a love relationship guarantees it. He or she will not always agree with you or like what you do. Getting over the hurt and healing is important. Otherwise, love is going to feel very dangerous in short order.

So if the bumps and bruises of being in love are inevitable, so is the fact of having to practice apology. Now remember, if you are “always apologizing” that’s another problem. It means you aren’t learning anything from your mistakes. You can’t do that because you’ll burnout your lover in no time. Best approach is accept that the bumps and bruises are going to happen, sincerely apologize when you are the one doing the hurt, and most importantly, learn from your mistake.

By the way, some people don’t like to apologize because it makes them feel “vulnerable.” Vulnerability is another one of those emotional states that guaranteed comes with being “in love.” As an old friend once said to me “you can’t do love closed and in control all the time.” Think about that.

Vulnerability is something that’s best endured after a deep breath and a reminder to oneself that feeling vulnerable and a little anxious is a small price to pay for love. It’s the kind of feeling you should nurse yourself through not run away from. So if you catch yourself getting defensive when you know it’s time for one of those sincere apologies I just told you about “supervise yourself out of shutting down.”

For those of you willing to try something new, I would suggest that you build in and practice telling the person you are about to apologize to, a little something about how you are feeling at that moment. That little bit of extra information can make you feel better in the short-run and help keep your defenses down. Something like, “This is a little uncomfortable for me, but I have to tell you I’m sorry for hurting you.”

Comments? Welcome. Dr. Tom Jordan


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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.

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