When you’ve hurt a person by something you’ve said, what do you do? Hurting someone’s feelings is usually unintentional and spoken in a moment of high emotional intensity when you’re not thinking straight. Whether it’s a girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse, family member, co-worker, or friend, what can you do now?
1. Apologize face-to-face, not in a text, email, or by phone. To really make amends you need to be present. Your apology must be sincere–trust has been broken so strip away your pride and humble yourself.
2. Take responsibility. Own it. Make no excuses. That means do not attempt to blame someone or something else for your screw-up. That means not trying to shift blame onto to the very person you just insulted. Whatever the circumstances, what was said that was hurtful came from you. No one forced you to say insensitive remarks, it’s no one else’s fault, so take responsibility. Own up.
3. Sometimes it’s fitting to explain. Providing a reason for what happened is different than trying to excuse what happened. “I know I shouldn’t have said those things, but I’m under so much pressure right now,” is an excuse. “I’m under a lot of pressure right now, but that doesn’t dismiss the hurtful words I said,” is an effort to explain, not excuse.
4. Don’t just say “I’m sorry,” ask to be forgiven. Promise it will not happen again. Describe what you’re going to change so it doesn’t happen again. “I’m going to talk to someone about managing the stress I’m under.” This action is the best choice if you truly want to make amends. Otherwise, the hurt person only has your say-so that it won’t happen again. Since the trust element is shattered between you and the other person, an action plan on your part goes a long way to rebuild trust.
5. Give it some time if the person isn’t able to accept your apology at the moment. Allow the person a couple of days to think and sorts things out–free of harassment or stalking. Bugging or nagging the person won’t speed up the forgiveness process, and can make the situation worse.
6. Forgive yourself. Beating yourself up is pointless. And listening to someone lecturing you about what a jerk you are is also pointless. Making a mistake or screwing-up doesn’t make you a bad person. No one is perfect. Everyone make mistakes. We all do things we regret. Meet tomorrow as a wiser person.
Think about it. In caring, Sandy