Is She Really Sorry For Her Actions?
Is She Really Sorry For Her Actions?
Dear Tacit,

I have a friend who is always doing something to hurt my feelings or disappoint me. She is quick to say she is sorry, and then she wants to carry on like nothing happened. And I am usually okay to do this but sometimes, I find it’s hard to just accept her apology and forget about how I am feeling. Do you have any advice?

Signed Sorry, Not Sorry.
Dear Sorry, Not Sorry:

It sounds to me like you and your friend need to have a deeper conversation together, not about the momentary things that she does that hurt/disappoint you, but rather about the pattern of behaviour that keeps repeating in your friendship. You need to be able to get to the root of what is really bothering you, and then express that to your friend, so you can both find a way to resolve it together. Perhaps you are feeling disrespected, taken advantage of, underappreciated in some way as this pattern of hurting you, apologizing and forgetting about it keeps happening. Until you know what is really bothering you (under the obvious moments of annoyance) then you cannot help your friend understand, and nothing will change.

Let’s take a moment to also understand how a healthy apology works. Saying sorry is often portrayed as the hardest part of the process – so when it happens, we think the appropriate next step is to accept the apology and move on. But this can only work properly if certain conditions are being met at the same time. A good apology is far more than just the “saying sorry” part. A person must first genuinely recognize the whole of what they did wrong – which means they have to truly understand the impact their behaviours had on the other person. This takes a willingness from both parties to be emotionally open and vulnerable with one another, and to be ready to speak and hear the truth. The person who was hurt has to be willing to talk about their own feelings and not focus on the other person’s behaviours (come from a place of explaining the impact, not blaming/judging the behaviour).

A true apology demonstrates ownership of the inappropriate behaviour, and sometimes includes an explanation (which must also be fully understood and heard by both parties). Within the apology, there needs to be a discussion about how to make the situation right again – how to fix what was damaged (the underlying feelings), so you can both move forward together, stronger in your connections as a result of what has happened (and not with a gap that has been created within your relationship). Typically, both parties have a role in this as well – both of you will need to be able to hear the other person’ perspective and to validate what the other person is feeling – not just come from your own place of emotion. This is the part where change is suggested, and this is a dance that two people need to do together until both feel their needs are being met. And finally, the crux of a genuine apology is the desire and effort to not do the offending act again. The change that is discussed must be such that it can stop the problematic behaviour from happening over and over. If the change is successful, then the apology has truly done everything is was designed to do.

Take care!

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