How to Say You’re Sorry

I have never been good with apologies. Whenever I say “I’m sorry,” it never sounds sincere enough. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I don’t like to argue with people or get into fights often, so the few times that it hits the fan and I’m at war with another person, it’s such a strange feeling. It’s a case of the Eeyores, in which there is a private gray cloud constantly raining on you no matter just how much you try to block the thoughts from your head and not dwell on it. And this feeling applies to everyone, be it a family member or roommate or even a friend you met on Twitter.

Usually my first instinct post-argument is to apologize and beg for forgiveness to ensure that life will pick right back up and move on just as it was before, in under a week or less. This is probably the worst possible approach in the world. It’s definitely good to say you’re sorry and all, but to expect everyone on both sides to forget what was said and done in under a week? Don’t count on it. I’m learning now more than ever that apologies don’t work like that. It’s so easy to send a flippant text message to another person in a few seconds and expect them not to get offended by it, to see it as you see it in your own head, but it takes more than just time to undo the damages caused afterward – rebuilding trust, faith in the other person and understanding that life does indeed move on are all necessary components to the act of apologizing.

1) Say It Like You Mean It

Don’t half-ass your apology or draw it out to be this ridiculous soliloquy that comes back full circle to reflect on how awesome you are. Say you’re sorry and why and mean it. Don’t worry about finding the right words – simple and short ones are enough here.

2) Understand What You Did

This is the part of the apology process that is the least pleasant to deal with: reviewing the stupid stuff that you said or did that got you here in the first place. It’s a little easier to manage if you’re fighting with your roommate over a lost utility check than if you’re fighting with somebody you met online who has never met you in real life. Online fights mix signals much more than arguments between people you know and interact with on a daily basis. Understand what you did wrong, acknowledge it and try to explain why you reacted just how you did. Fair warning: it’s going to be hard all around.

3) Let Some Time Pass

The longest argument I was ever in was in high school where I had a fight with my friends and we didn’t talk for 13 months. 13 months! We finally made up through a series of handwritten notes in English class, but holy hell, was it ever a miserable time in my life.

Once you apologize, you have to let time pass. You have to. It’s not easy, either – especially if you’re like me and don’t like to get into fights often. But it’s necessary for closing wounds and also to avoid making rash decisions brought on by making up too soon (which can sometimes accidentally lead into a second fight before you even know it). I try hard not to blog during these times. It’s really easy to get the internet to feel sorry for you and rail against the other person, but ugh, what a mess. Looking at that blog post six months later, you’re going to see a very different version of you staring back and I guarantee you it’s going to make you feel gross. Hang in there – hopefully your argument resolves itself sooner than in 13 months’ time.

4) Forgive Yourself

Misery loves company, but pity parties for one get out of control fast. Spend one evening crying in your bedroom and watching P.S. I Love You and let that be it. I don’t want to sound cold here, but life will continue moving on with or without you. You can’t put a pause button on everything just because you got into an argument on Facebook. The apologies have been made, the forgiveness has been asked for, the sobbing to the besties and getting their advice has been done and time will heal everything else. Don’t hate yourself forever about what happened – forgive yourself and don’t carry a grudge.

5) Acknowledge Things Will Be Alright in the End

I like clean slates, but I also know that they don’t always happen. So I take comfort in something that Elizabeth Taylor used to say: “Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together.”

Everything happens for a reason, as horribly cliché as it may sound, but everything will continue to keep happening too. You can’t lie in bed and fantasize about what things would be like if you had done it differently because your bed will not magically grant you some remote control to turn back time with. You just gotta keep moving. With time, hopefully you can help rebuild a broken piece of trust, too. None of it will be easy and all of it will be difficult, but life is short. It’s so damn short. If you feel quite strongly about the bond you have with another person, any person, who makes even the smallest smidge of life seem nicer to deal with, don’t give up on them – not now, not ever. Work it out and work on it together.

(Image via Shutterstock).

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