How to Apologize in 3 Steps
When I was a little girl I would have some vicious fights with my sisters. Many would end with us both screaming and pulling each other’s hair, refusing to be the first to let go. My mom always knew the best way to diffuse our anger: nose to nose resolution.
Yes, just as it sounds, she would make us stand facing each other with our noses touching until we would apologize. It always worked, and about 3 seconds later we would burst into giggles, apologize, and go back to playing as if nothing had ever happened.
Now that I am a mom to 4 little girls, it is eye opening to see my girls in similar fights. The fighting is not what alarms me, they always get over it and are back to playing together quickly. It is the anger that builds when they don’t fully apologize to one another. And isn’t it the same for us as adults? When someone offends you, or you are downright hurt and they don’t offer a genuine apology, it is hard to move on in forgiveness.
That is why teaching our children how to properly apologize and forgive is one of the most important skills to master in our family. It sets a foundation for our children of being humble and giving grace. Learning how to apologize and forgive seems mushy, and perhaps a bit weak, but it is a powerful tool that can be used to move mountains.
3 Steps to a Proper Apology
Simply muttering “I’m sorry” doesn’t equate to a proper apology. After all, would you feel vindicated if someone offered you an apology like that? I wouldn’t. In our family we teach the 3 Part Apology:
Make eye contact and address the person.
Example: “Lucy, can I talk to you?” Whenever possible, apologize in person. At the very least, over the phone. NEVER attempt to offer an apology through email or text. They can’t interpret your facial expressions or tone of voice, and even the best written apology can be taken out of context. Is it uncomfortable? Very. But it is so important to deliver your message in a way you know it will be heard correctly.
State why you are sorry.
Example: “Lucy, I am so sorry for taking your toy.” Simple and straightforward. If it was an accident, we still demand an apology. This applies to any age person.
Ask for forgiveness.
Example: “Will you please forgive me?” 5 little words that hold so much power. The key is in asking for forgiveness. When you show the other person you are genuinely humble and willing to put yourself below them, that is when amazing things happen.
All 3 parts are vital to restore the relationship. Too often I see adults and children alike offer only part of an apology, and it isn’t fully received by the offended. They may have genuinely felt sorry, and wanted to restore trust in the other person. But because they didn’t follow the 3 steps it wasn’t well received. We all know this can lead to bitterness and contempt on both sides. As my husband says, “It isn’t how you intended for a message to come across, but rather how it was received that matters”.
A proper apology is so simple, even little ones can remember the 3 steps. Imagine for a moment, if everyone was taught how to apologize and ask for forgiveness. What if the world realized that there is incredible strength and character in humbling oneself to rebuild a relationship. It is a complete shift in thinking, that letting go of pride and accepting an attitude of humbleness could be so powerful. But it works.
To Recap, the 3 Steps to a Proper Apology Are:
Keep these steps in a visible place as a reminder for your family of the importance of apologies and forgiveness. To download this free cheatsheet, go to my Free Resource Library.
How will you implement the 3-step apology in your own family?