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The Insincere Apology: How to Authentically Acknowledge

apologuI come from an extended family that argues and engages conflict frequently. Recently, I began mapping out the seating chart for my upcoming wedding, and I ran into several placement issues due to pending conflicts between different members of my extended family. I would like to believe that the members of my family would put on a happy face just for the occasion, but it is also a risk I am not willing to take. Now I am playing seating chart Jenga, in hopes that my strategically placed tables won’t collapse into a verbal sparring match between the members of my family. When I began at the University of Baltimore’s negotiation and conflict management program in the spring of 2013, I spent a lot of time analyzing my family and their clashes with one another throughout my time at the University of Baltimore. I have deduced one important point that often stands in the way of them reaching a resolution, an apology. Now just to be clear, my family is not the only group of people that struggle to achieve resolution due to a lack of apology. Most people that vent to me about their disagreements encounter this issue as well. The truth is most people struggle with saying I’m sorry, but why?

Many people may feel that saying I’m sorry is an admission of wrongdoing or defeat. We are headstrong about our values and beliefs, if someone is challenging us and offends us; we may see ourselves as the victim. We believe WE deserve the apology instead of being the one to give it. Most of us fail to realize the power a sincere apology can have on another person. I can remember at the University of Baltimore, my professors taught us that many arguments would see resolutions if one or both parties would just say sorry. Some situations where conflicts are deep rooted, one sincere apology may not be enough, but it has the potential to be a building block to moving in the right direction.

How can a person give a sincere apology?
1. Recognize that by saying you’re sorry you are not admitting defeat or conceding that you did something wrong entirely. It is important to remember that all parties in every conflict contribute in some form. Perhaps you did not initiate the fight first, but once you got angry, you made hurtful remarks, which further escalated the disagreement. Apologize for your contribution.

2. Leave out the “but” in your apologies. I have had apologies said to me in the past that start off well then once they say I’m sorry, they follow it with “but I reacted this way because you did [fill in the blank].” The apology loses all sincerity once a person tacks on what they believe to be a justifiable reason for engaging in their bad behavior. Apologize but leave off any excuse for why you said or behaved the way you did.

3. Acknowledge their feelings. When someone has upset us, we are not typically looking for just an “I’m sorry”; we want our feelings recognized. We need to know that the other person is aware of what has upset us and that they are not just saying words to dismiss the conflict.

I often wonder if my family members would have sincerely apologized at the start of several of their feuds if they would have a resolution now? My hope is that at my wedding all my family members can come together and be civil, but if any arguments were to break out, fortunately, I will know how to handle them!

If you want to know hear more about Apologies and Forgiveness check out these podcasts:

Transforming Conflict Through Forgiveness and Forgiveness: The Gift You Give To Yourself

Abigail Clark M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management
Apprentice

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