The 4 parts of the apology process are: acknowledgement of the offense, the explanation, various attitudes and behaviors including humility and sincerity, and reparations. We discuss each of these parts in detail, with examples from our marriage.
022: The Melody of Marriage—Apology, Part 02
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In the previous episode, we discussed 3 things you can apologize for. In this episode, we focus on the 4 parts to an effective apology (borrowed from Aaron Lazare's book On Apology). These 4 parts are: acknowledgement of the offense, the explanation, various attitudes and behaviors, and reparations. It's important to note two things: these steps do not have to go in order, and all parts are not needed for all wrongs committed. Learning how to apologize well will help your marriage, no matter how long you have been married. Let's dive in!
Acknowledgement of the Offense
The first step to apologizing is for the person apologizing to acknowledge that an offense happened. This can be accomplished by saying "I realize what I did, and I'm sorry." For example, if Sue yells at Steve, Sue can say "I know I just yelled at you, and I'm sorry." This lets Steve know that Sue and him are on the same page.
One difficulty in this step is when the person apologizing says sorry too quickly. There may be many complicated things happening in any given situation in marriage. If there is an apology without full understanding by both parties, it can feel like the person apologizing just wants to avoid conflict. Before you acknowledge the offense, make sure you are both on the same page as to what happened.
The explanation involves the person apologizing telling their story. This step can seem insignificant, but it may be the most important step for granting forgiveness and moving past the wrong done. In the previous situation with Sue and Steve, Sue can say "Steve, I yelled at you because I have been under a lot of stress at my job, and I took it out on you." If Steve can look past his hurt and see Sue's pain, he may remember when his job was stressful for him. If he was in Sue's position, he may have responded the same way. The explanation humanizes both the offender and the offended.
Various Attitudes and Behaviors
The next step in the apology process is displaying various attitudes and behaviors. These attitudes can include remorse, shame, humility, and sincerity. To continue our example of Sue and Steve, Sue can say in a sincere tone "Steve, that was wrong of me to yell at you. I wish I could take it back." This displays sincerity and remorse to Steve. One obvious mistake at this point is to be insincere with your attitudes and behaviors. This may have worked with your brothers and sisters when growing up, but your spouse will not be fooled.
The final step that we talk about are reparations. Reparations are how you are going to "make it right." Sue can say to Steve, "Steve, next time I won't take out my stress at work on you." Reparations can vary widely with the offense committed, but this can be something that you and your partner can talk about together.
The 4 parts of an apology are not easy to do, especially when you have so much hurt and anger during a conflict. Sometimes apologizing feels like the last thing you want to do. But admitting what you did, explaining why, demonstrating sincerity and shame, and offering to make it right is a first step to forgiveness and growth.
Question: What part of apologizing is hardest for you?
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