The Art of Sensitive Forgiveness – Harvard Health Blog
If you’ve been stuck at home with one or more family members for the past year, you’re likely to occasionally get nervous with each other. When you’re under a lot of stress, it’s not uncommon to say something nice, or even anger someone you care about. And we all make mistakes that we don’t think about from time to time, like forgetting a promise or breaking something.
Not sure you should apologize?
Even if you think that what you said or did was not so bad, or that you think the other person is wrong, it is important to apologize when you hurt or upset someone. “To maintain or re-establish connections with other people, you need to put aside your concerns about right and wrong and try to understand the other’s experience,” says Dr. Ronald Siegel, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. This ability is one of the foundations of emotional intelligence, which is at the core of all kinds of healthy and fruitful relationships.
How to truly apologize
For forgiveness to be effective, it must be genuine. Successful forgiveness validates that the other person feels hurt and acknowledges responsibility (you accept that your actions have caused the other person pain). You want to express that you feel and care for the person who was hurt, and promise to fix it by taking steps to prevent mishaps such as those in the examples below.
According to former psychiatrist Aaron Lazare, a pardon expert and former chancellor and dean of the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine, a good pardon has four elements:
- Acknowledge the crime. Take responsibility for the offense, whether it was physical or psychological harm, and confirm that your behavior was not acceptable. Avoid using vague or elusive language or writing an apology to minimize the offense or question whether the victim has actually been hurt.
- Explain what happened. The challenge here is to explain how the crime happened without forgiving it. In fact, sometimes the best strategy is to say that there is no excuse.
- Express regret. If you regret your mistake or feel ashamed or humiliated, say: All of this is part of expressing sincere repentance.
- Offer for corrections. For example, if you have damaged someone’s property, repair or replace it. When a crime has hurt someone’s feelings, acknowledge the pain and promise that you will try to be more sensitive in the future.
Making a sensitive apology
These are the words you have chosen to apologize. Here are some examples of good and bad forgiveness.
|EFFECTIVE APPOINTMENT||WHY IT WORKS|
|“I’m sorry I missed last night. I’ve been under a lot of pressure at work, but that’s not an excuse for my behavior. I love you and I will try not to take my frustrations away from you. “||He takes responsibility, explains why the mistake happened but gives no excuses, expresses remorse and care, and promises reparation.|
|“I forgot. I apologize for this mistake. It shouldn’t have happened. What can I do to prevent this problem in the future?”||He takes responsibility, describes the mistake, makes the person feel cared for, and begins a conversation about how to fix the mistake.|
|EFFECTIVE APPOINTMENT||WHY IT WILL NOT WORK|
|“I apologize for what happened.”||The language is vague; the offense is not specified.|
|“Mistakes were made.”||Using a passive voice prevents you from taking responsibility.|
|“Okay, I apologize. I didn’t know it was such a sensitive issue for you. “||By saying the wrong sound, he blames the insult again (for “sensitivity”).|