4 Steps of a True Apology

A true apology is different from the usual, “I’m sorry”!, a simple offering with no real intention for change. 

In contrast, a true apology is about making lasting change. This is what moves you forward in life with a focus on growth instead of being stuck in the past. 

If you feel like you are having a hard time moving past a mistake that you made, give this a try.

Here are the 4 steps to a true apology.

Step One: Acknowledge That You Have Done Something Wrong.

This is self explanatory. Fess up. Acknowledge what you have done.

Step Two: Take Ownership for What is Yours

This one is a bit trickier. You need to take responsibility for what is yours, and not take responsibility for what is not yours. 

Let me explain. 

You are responsible for your actions. You are not responsible for the emotions that your actions illicited in another person. Ownership is noting what you did and what you need to do to fix your behaviour. 

You are not responsible for the hurt and pain experienced by another person. The level of pain and hurt is always in relation to the persons past. So if their past is contributing to the amount of pain and hurt that they are feeling, you can’t be responsible for all of that. 

That is the other persons healing journey. If you take that on, you will definitely never feel better because you can not heal another person for them.

What you are responsible for is your actions. Your behaviour. 

Take an inventory and assess where things went wrong.

Step Three: Make A Plan Of Action

Identify where you went wrong, and what you can do in the future to avoid the same situation.

Step Four: Be Aware and Be Prepared

Pay attention to scenarios that begin to mimic the situation when you had to apologize. Be aware of what is in your mind driving you to make the same mistake again. And work to resist the temptation to behave in the way that you have in the past.

That is where the real change occurs. When you can notice the impulses that lead to undesirable behaviour. Then consciously work to decrease the frequency that you indulge the behaviour.

Note that you may make a mistake again, but you want to make sure that it is not to the same extent as in the past.

For example, if you lost your cool with a colleague and you said you were not going to do that again, pay attention to how you interact with your colleague. 

You may notice an urge to behave the way that you did previously. But you are changing your behaviour, which means you will notice the impulse, but not act on it.

Note that you may mess up again, but this time, you will catch yourself sooner and make less of a mistake. Stop yourself as soon as you notice. Each time you do this, you begin to decrease the desire to behave in a way that is not desirable.

With an apology, you want to make sure that you are always moving away from the behaviour that you felt bad about. Even if you don’t completely eradicate the behaviour, you need to be doing less of it. Over time, you will find that the mistake no longer is happening at all. 

Over time, you begin to move yourself away from the initial negative response. This is more realistic than thinking you are never going to mess up again.

We are designed to make mistakes, and to grow from them. Don’t forget the best part. The part where growing from our mistakes makes us a real “grown”-up!

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