How To Accept An Apology Gracefully​

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Your Role is Active, not Passive

In your analysis of what it takes to be good at receiving apologies from others, place yourself back in the shoes of giving one. Remember exactly how you felt the last time you said, “I’m sorry.” The best feeling for someone who is apologizing is to have their apology accepted without any stipulations added on. As the person receiving an apology, you should make it a priority to accept the apology without mentioning anything else about the subject at hand.

The apology should be a finale to any conversation about the matter, and you should do your best to move on from the happenings that led to the apology taking place.

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Refrain from Giving Half-Baked Apologies

There’s no doubt that it’s difficult to apologize to our spouse. It takes humility and it’s uncomfortable. That’s one of the reasons why many spouses don’t give apologies that are acceptable. It’s hard! But you offend your spouse even further when you don’t apologize and fully express sorrow. Kevin B. Bullard makes a great point to consider in his article, titled, “Half Baked Apologies are Offensive”:

“When we offend our spouse by our words, actions, or attitude, it’s common to want to take the easy way out by offering a simple, ‘Sorry’ or ‘I apologize.’ However, just saying these words without proper context is just as hurtful as our first offense. It’s much more effective and meaningful if we extend the ‘apology’ by admitting our wrong. We need to acknowledge our spouse’s hurt, intending not to do it again; and we need ask for forgiveness. Doing this becomes easier when we recognize we hurt our spouse.

“Here’s the full apology: ‘I’m sorry for (the offense). I know it (the effect it had on your spouse). I was wrong. And I intend not to do it again. Will you forgive me?’

“Example: ‘Cetelia, I’m sorry for embarrassing you in front of our guests. I know it hurt your esteem. I was wrong. And I intend not to do it again. Will you forgive me?’

“While these words may be difficult to utter, they can make a world of difference when offered from a sincere heart.”

CONSIDERATIONS BEFORE MAKING AN APOLOGY

Immediately you become aware that you have wronged someone, you need to start thinking about making an apology. You should not allow the situation to get worse by remaining silent.

You may have been involved in an argument, probably a very heated one. This could have resulted in you saying the wrong words. You might have also acted out your anger in a violent manner thus physically hurting the other person.

It could also be that the argument didn’t get that far but still the impact was evident.

As you prepare to do the best thing for the relationship, there are two critical things to consider.

Sincerity is a must

You cannot make an apology if you are not sincere. Hiding your anger so as to get past the situation is a deception first to yourself then to the person you are apologizing to. This is quite the opposite of what is needed in rebuilding a broken relationship.

Whenever sincerity lacks, trust cannot grow. And without trust, there can never be any real and meaningful relations. Watch the below video for ways to cultivate honesty.

Sincerity is one of those things which can be communicated both verbally and non-verbally. As you might however know, non-verbal communication is stronger than verbal. Remember that actions speak louder than words?

Although you might be able to use all the right words, someone can indeed ‘sense’ when you are lying. This would definitely be the worst mistake you ever made. Keep in mind that the person you are apologizing to already feels cheated because he never expected you to do what you did.

No excuses or blaming

Whether it is the aggrieved party that started the argument or not, this is not the time to start blaming them. When making an apology, you are communicating a level of maturity. You have recognized that things went wrong and want to make them right.

You are therefore taking responsibility of your actions. Whatever the other person did or did not do, thus resulting in the current situation, is actually irrelevant at this point in time.

Since you are the one who drove the final nail into the coffin, the other person is most likely feeling deeply wounded. And if they haven’t offered an apology to you yet, it’s possible that they haven’t seen their wrong. All they know and remember is that you hurt them.

Since you have decided to deal with the situation for the benefit of both of you, put in the effort needed to stay away from blaming.

Blaming can happen in two ways:

1. Blame shifting – this is when you go on the offensive and start blaming the broken relationship on the other person. This is an aggressive approach and cannot possibly bring you the desired results.

When you blame shift, you are telling the person you hurt, that they are squarely responsible for the hurt they got from you. You are proudly telling them that what you did was right and they deserved the treatment they received from you.

This obviously makes things worse as it just aggravates the situation. The hurt person continues hurting and is made to feel the extra burden of carrying the responsibility.

2. Blame sharing – this is where you think you are being “fair” and taking your part of the blame. In this case, you are likely to use a statement like “I’m sorry for what I did to contribute to this situation.”

Although you may think you are being realistic, you are not going to achieve your goal if you take this approach. This is because your communication says that it is not entirely your fault that you did what you did. You are simply justifying your actions or words.

Gracefully Accept Apologies

In addition, here’s some advice from Counselor, Pamela Lipe:

“When you’re in the position of accepting an apology, give yourself a ‘Mental Pause’ to decide the best course of action for you, your spouse, your situation, and the particular wrongdoing. Keep in mind the long-term consequences to the relationship. Your goal is to return to emotional closeness.”

We encourage you to ask the Lord to help you to be as gracious as it is possible. Sometimes it takes longer to heal. Just know that it’s fine to give yourself the necessary time to do so. But to the best of your ability, lean into the healing process. Sometimes we can draw something out longer than we should. It’s tempting to hold onto hurt that we should be releasing. And holding onto unforgiveness can poison our inner being and prolong the pain.

“The difference between holding on to a hurt or releasing it with forgiveness is like the difference between laying your head down at night on a pillow filled with thorns or a pillow filled with rose petals.” (Loren Fincher)

Remember the grace the Lord extended to us “while we were yet sinners.” And remember the forgiveness He readily gives us, when we ask for it. “Bear with each other; and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.(Colossians 3:13)Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.(Romans 12:17-18) This includes your spouse.

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04. Accountability

Obviously, any apology that doesn’t include the promise for change—or at least hope for it—will ring hollow. So to make sure that change actually happens, focus on how you and your partner can create accountability to help you avoid future conflict. Address the question: How will you get ahead of similar issues in the future and protect the relationship from situations that may feel dangerously familiar? Because accountability is at the heart of any committed relationship, you should feel some sense of responsibility for being on the hook for one another.

How To Accept An Apology With Grace But Set Boundaries At The Same Time

Apologies usually come with heavy emotions and hurt feelings. It can be difficult to put these aside and be graceful when someone approaches you to apologize.

While you should always try your best to accept an apology with grace (if you feel you are ready to), you should also use it as an opportunity to set boundaries going forward, or chances are that the same thing might end up happening again.

You can accept an apology with grace and set boundaries at the same time, and here is how.

Listen

Give the person the respect of you listening to them apologizing. Even if you aren’t completely ready to hear them say the words “I am sorry”, appreciate that it is probably difficult for them to apologize, and let them speak their peace.

Avoid interrupting or correcting them as they apologize. If there is anything you want to say, save it for when they are finished speaking. You will have time to say your bit once they are done and giving them the respect of listening to what they say shows maturity.

Decide How To Move Forward

You will need to decide whether or not you will be accepting their apology. You don’t even have to make this decision there.

Take your time to decide whether or not you forgive them. You are never obligated to accept an apology, so don’t feel pressured to doing so.

Make sure that the person acknowledges the pain they may have caused you, and that they were not trying to make excuses for their behavior in their apology.

You could always point out how you feel to them, as they might not fully understand how their actions impacted you.

Don’t Skip Back To Normal

Not everything is fixed by an apology. They have to put in the work necessary to make it up to you, or to avoid having the same situations happen again.

Do not be tempted to go back to life the way it was before they hurt you, because things don’t change if things don’t change!

Give yourself the grace and respect to not fall back into bad habits, and let them know that you will not be accepting previous behavior moving on.

They need to know that you are serious about protecting yourself from being hurt again, and you need to know that as well.

Accept Or Do Not Accept

Once you feel ready, you should let them know how you feel. Accepting their apology, if it is right in the situation, will help both of you move forward, but just make sure you are ready to do so.

Let them know that you accept their apology, and whether or not you can offer some forgiveness yet. You are not obliged to do anything, and don’t let them pressure you to do so.

Set Your Boundaries

When you let them know that you have accepted their apology, you should also let them know what your boundaries are going to be moving forward.

Take your time to work out what you want your relationship to be like in the future, and what boundaries and actions can be put in place to ensure this.

They can either accept these boundaries or not, that is completely up to them, as long as you hold yourself in high enough regard to know that you are worth more and that you will be moving on if they choose not to keep within the boundaries you set.

Keep a check on how they act, and remind them of these boundaries if you notice any negative behavior happening. You owe it to yourself to only keep positive influences in your life!

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Paving The Way To Forgiveness

The person who caused the harm is likely going to need to put in some work to help facilitate forgiveness.

That work might be personal growth of their own, changing behavior to ensure that the harm doesn’t happen again, or fixing any damage that their actions might have caused.

An apology with no action behind it is essentially meaningless.

Words are the easiest thing in the world, because you can tell anyone anything for any reason at all with little effort.

Actions speak louder because they tend to require effort and sacrifice, which someone who is motivated to seek forgiveness will willingly engage in if they genuinely want to mend the harm that they caused.

The process can be smoothed by giving yourself time to assess the situation and decide if there is anything that can be done to help with your healing.

Don’t expect the other person to just know what they did was wrong.

They may not realize that their actions were hurtful.

They may not find those particular actions hurtful if the roles were reversed.

Everyone has different emotional tolerances.

Step 3: Acknowledge Their Apology

It’s always appropriate to acknowledge someone for making a genuine effort. Regardless of your response, start by thanking the other person for gathering their courage and speaking up. If you have hopes of repairing your relationship, your respect and kindness are critical now. 

The other person may have hurt you, but you won’t improve anything by being hurtful in return. When both of you act in good faith, you set the stage for honest communication.

02. Acceptance

Once you express your appreciation to your partner, it’s time to accept the apology—or not. Yeah, that’s right. Acceptance is ideal, but you may still have an unmet need with regard to the issue at hand. If you don’t think you can accept it yet, you can say, “It means a lot that you’re apologizing, but I still need you to understand a little more of my experience.” Remember this isn’t about making someone pay, it’s about repairing a fracture. It’s a chance to make sure things don’t fester. So either accept the apology, or ask for what you still need so that you can accept it. If and when you feel like your injury has been fully acknowledged and understood, let them know their apology has been accepted.

Moving Forward After an Apology

Creating a sincere apology takes effort, and so does responding to one. Resist the knee-jerk reaction to say, “It’s OK,” and consider a more genuine answer. Responding thoughtfully to an apology helps you know when you’re ready for the next step. 

Sources

  1. Grabmeier, Jeff. “​The 6 Elements of an Effective Apology, According to Science.” Ohio State News, April 12, 2016,
  2. Hatcher, Ida. “Evaluations of Apologies: The Effects of Apology Sincerity and Acceptance Motivation.” Marshall Digital Scholar, January 1, 2010.

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