To apologize is to take ownership of something you did, to acknowledge and validate the other person’s feelings, to offer to make amends. To apologize is to show you care about the person, you care about the relationship and you want to make things right. But why is it so hard?
Why is it so hard for some people to apologize?
One reason for not apologizing is you do not not care. If you do not care that their feelings are hurt, you would not offer an apology. If you do not care about the relationship, then you have no need or desire to try and repair it. Fair enough. An apology is all about mending the relationship, if you want no such thing, then this is where things end.
Another reason for not apologizing could be you truly believe there is nothing to apologize for. You effectively minimize the person’s experience like “not a big deal”, failing to understand that your perception of the situation might differ.
- You do not get to decide whether something is a big deal for the other person. You do not get to decide if or when they should feel hurt. If you have caused someone pain you owe them an apology. No matter how insignificant the situation may seem to you.
You are afraid of more conflict. You fear the apology will open the floodgates to accusations and blame. You fear the apology will get turned down and the prospect of losing the relationship scares you.
- Your fears are stopping you from seeing that not offering the apology is what is killing your relationship. Not admitting your wrongdoings, not paying respect to the other person’s feelings (that you hurt) is what will drift you apart.
You are trying to protect your character. You feel like if you did something bad then you must be a bad person, if you made a mistake then you must be ignorant or stupid, etc. And by apologizing you confirm this outloud.
- Separate the action from the character. Even the best people, the most caring partners can make mistakes. You might be a decent, sensitive, moral person, and still do something that unintentionally hurts someone. Admitting you wrongdoing and offering an apology only proves you to be a caring, responsible and trustworthy person.
It might appear that people who refuse to back down and apologize are strong and centered, but in fact this could be a sign of weakness and a fragile ego. When you have low self-esteem you feel like you cannot absorb any more blows to your fragile sense of self. You go into defensive mode and come up with excuses, try to shift the blame or dispute the facts. You’d do anything in your power to ward off the threat of having to admit you were wrong.
Instead of apologizing after the offense, you might become extra kind and accommodating. This is your way of trying to mend the relationship without having to admit your wrongdoing.
- In order to take responsibility for your actions and apologize, you need to have a level of self-esteem that allows you to withstand the feelings of discomfort that come with admitting you were wrong. Admitting your mistakes makes you feel vulnerable, it might even seem humiliating to some. But only by facing your flows you can improve yourself and grow.
The feelings of guilt and shame that come with the realization you did something wrong can be overwhelming. They might send you straight into fight or flight mode where you merely react, trying to protect your self-image and self-worth. Having your mistake linger over your head, waiting for it to be brought up creates tension and anxiety.
Apologizing will free you from this hell. It might seem scary and painful but it will bring you relief. Apologizing will increase your self-worth, proving to you hat you are a responsible, sensible, trustworthy person. Admitting your wrongdoing will open the door to learning from your mistakes and bettering yourself.