We all stuff up … and we all need to know how to make up!

We’re all human. 

We all make mistakes. 

And we all need to learn how to give a heart felt apology, when we do!

Unfortunately, far too many of us have never heard a ‘sorry’ in our younger years, let alone been given a heart-felt apology, so the language of apology can feel unfamiliar, or down right uncomfortable.

Here are the essential elements of a really good apology, as researched and published by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, in The Five Languages of Apology. With these 5 elements in an apology, connection can not only be re-established, but it can be deepened to something far greater than before.

1. Expressing regret – ‘I am so sorry’ …

Now this is the easy first step of an apology, but to be honest, many of us struggle even with the ‘sorry’!If we don’t truly feel sorry, it won’t come out ‘sounding’ genuine or we’ll be sorry and then need to add a ‘but’ to justify ourselves, which unsurprisingly, doesn’t really sound sorry but more like justification!

So work on making a sorry from your heart for what you did – of course there will be really good reasons why you responded the way you did, and yet, it still wasn’t the best way to respond was it? 

This is ultimately about you trying to be a better person – hold that in your heart and this process will unfold more easily.

2. Accepting responsibility – ‘I was wrong’ …

Owning we did something wrong, sounds a whole lot easier than it is! We can know deep inside, that it was wrong, but saying that out loud is a lot more challenging! This one can be especially tricky if we had parents that often blamed us, scape-goated us, or shamed us. The words can literally get stuck inside, as anxiety overwhelms and hijacks our ability to access the speech area of our brain. 

Learning to calm is also a really important step in giving a heart-felt apology.

3. Making restitution – ‘What can I do to start to make it right’ …

This one sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? We have to fix what we have broken. But it becomes more challenging if the person we are saying sorry to, is likely to use it to whip us and shame us for time immemorial! So this one’s a lot easier when we know the other party will be graceful in the receiving of our apology.

Giving an apology does not mean it will always be accepted, but at least you will feel better in having tried to be the person you want to be.

4. Genuinely repenting – ‘I’ve learnt from this, and I’ll try my absolute best not to do that again’ …

Being real about our apology seems to be stating the obvious. However if we can clearly describe what we’ve learnt and how we plan not to repeat this mistake again, it will go a long way in soothing the pain, and calming the fear, of the person we hurt. This is pivotal in allowing them to  rebuild trust in us again.

But you better make sure you follow through on what you’re promising! Don’t make the same mistake twice, or getting a hearing for the next apology is going to be a whole lot more challenging! 

5. Requesting forgiveness – ‘Are you able to forgive me?’ (Remember they don’t have to!)

The word forgiveness can throw some people, as can humbling themselves to ask for it! 

Again, this about choosing who you want to be in this moment – what you might like to hear from the other person ‘if the tables were turned’?

Now you don’t have to have all 5 elements within your apology. Most of use look for certain elements in an apology to be sure that it’s ‘genuine’. So if you want to give yourself the best opportunity of making amends and healing the pain you have caused, so that you can reconnect, be wise, and add in all 5! 

Often if we’ve stuffed up big time, it’s because there’s bigger problems underneath our stuff up! You might need some professional help to unpack these, to be able to make a truly heart felt apology, that you can maintain the commitment of, over time. 

Good luck!