Tag Archives: Sorry

Maybe Your Apologies Fall On Deaf Ears

In my last post I wrote about how to give an effective apology, and many of you took the opportunity to download the free guide Three Steps to an Effective Apology. However, it’s always possible that although you practiced and then implemented the three steps outlined in the report, your apology seemed to fall on deaf ears. Your partner hardly noticed your attempt to make amends and just went right on sulking, fuming, nit-picking, criticising, yelling or whatever they where doing in the first place. Or maybe the shoe was on the other foot; your partner made a pretty good attempt at apologising to you, but you really didn’t feel like cutting them any slack at all!

Ironically couples in troubled relationships make more repair attempts (attempting to repair the damaged connection between them) than couples who are happy together, but their attempts repeatedly fail. They are met with defensiveness, sarcasm, blame etc or their attempts to reconnect just don’t get noticed because of the backlog of negativity between them.

If this is you, don’t despair, you don’t have to somehow magically become happy together in order to be heard. Here are a couple of things that you can do that will make a difference. Softening up your tone when you are making the attempt will help, or listen to the words rather than the tone if you are on the receiving end. Secondly, make your attempts obvious, maybe even a little formal, in order to cut through the negativity and make it obvious that you are wanting to get back on track. This is were the Three Steps to an Effective Apology comes into its own.

To finish off, here is a short list of less structured repair statements to use when you first notice things getting off track; “Can I take that back?”, “Ouch, that hurt”, “Did I say something wrong?”, “Lets start over again”, “lets take a little break”, “I need to calm down, give me a few moments”, “I’m feeling defensive, could you rephrase that”, “sorry, that came out wrong”, or in the right context a goofy smile, a warm touch or even a good humored salute can work wonders.

Cheers & catch you again soon, Ben.

Do Your Apologies Fall Short?

I was driving across the Napier-Taupo road recently, on my way to compete in the NZ 10km Kayak Champs. The stretch across the Rangataiki Plains gave me time to sit back, listen to some music, and do some reflecting. The stereo was playing k.d.lang, hymns of the 49th parallel, and a line from Leonard Cohen’s song Bird on a Wire caught my attention; “If I, if I have been unkind, I hope you can just let it go by.” Here we have Leonard wanting someone to let him off the hook without him having to take responsibility or do anything redeeming, and this got me thinking about the ineffective apologies I have heard over time.  A couple of my favourites are “I am sorry you feel that way” and “I didn’t mean to upset you”.  In both cases the implication is that the hurt party shouldn’t feel upset and should forgive and forget without the offending party having to do anything.

I have a process for giving an effective apology that I teach to my clients, and it’s one that they find very useful and at times has provided a crucial breakthrough in their relationship struggles. So I decided to write this up in the form of a guide titled “Three Steps to an Effective Apology.” You can get your free copy here

Cheers, Ben

P.S. Once you have read the report, come back to this blog and leave a comment by clicking the Leave a reply button at the top of the post, I would love to hear from you.