From our earliest experiences, parents, teachers, and religious leaders teach us to apologize. They claim it is integral to the proper functioning of society.
So, it might make you uncomfortable to think that you should stop apologizing. However, there are things you do not have to apologize for.
Many people operate under the idea that “Transgression demands atonement.” If you violate the law, or simply engage in a personal offense, make it right. This means taking ownership of the act and contrition.
For many, an apology is like a crisis response institution that is well-known. However, it is not known well. It is like the American Red Cross. We have a vague sense of their purpose: be the balm with which to mend a broken heart, or the succor of a warm blanket and a hot cup of coffee.
However, many people don’t know how the American Red Cross actually works! They are also unfamiliar with the specifics regarding apologies! Our understanding of the form and function of contrition is limited.
When should you really say sorry? What makes an apology sincere?
What saying “I’m Sorry” is not
Let’s review the basics of an apology. Simply saying “I’m sorry” is not some magical response. These two words alone do not mean the speaker is entitled to forgiveness. The process is more complicated.
The offending party must give the person they wronged a meaningful opportunity to make an informed decision. This means they have the choice between accepting or rejecting the apology. Therefore, there must be complete disclosure of the facts and circumstances.
People need to communicate. Simply telling your spouse/domestic partner/significant other “I’m sorry” is rarely sufficient. A qualified apology is similarly ineffective.
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