Sorry Doesn’t Cut It!

two women holding pen

An apology isn’t enough. Knowing how to create opportunities for repair could just save your relationship.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone or experienced a bad day that left you feeling uncomfortable, awkward, frustrated, and unsure of whether you are as close to that person as you were a moment ago?

women walking on sidewalk

And then you don’t know what to do because it feels uncomfortable and more and more is unsaid and then…you wonder what happened to that loving, carefree, thoughtful, and meaningful relationship you had.

Or maybe you had a colleague at work that you respected and appreciated. But a sour conference call where embarrassment happened in front of everyone else on the call left you avoiding her, resenting her, and wondering why she would even do that in the first place.

The types of relationships we have with others depends heavily on our ability to communicate with honesty, care, and respect. Even the best relationships can suffer when we misunderstand, unintentionally hurt each other, or don’t realize that we must put effort into “the opportunity for repair.”

Maybe you have left a lot unsaid. Maybe you said things that were hurtful and unhelpful. Maybe you said how you felt but feel that the situation is still unresolved. Maybe someone hurt your feelings and didn’t help you feel better about it at all. Maybe you hurt someone with something you did or said but you swept it under the rug and “moved on”…

Does any of this sound familiar?

In order to heal and improve our relationships when damage occurs we must make an apology AND create an opportunity for repair.

black woman covering face with hands standing near potted plant


The “I am sorry” RULE:

If you haven’t read my blog post on the “I’m Sorry Rule” then stop right here and go do that first.

Sorry is reserved for egregious offenses. You use “I’m sorry” when you have violated someone else’s core values or hurt and damaged a relationships and trust.

 When we use a silly sorry, we are not really sorry. You’re just uncomfortable. I am putting my discomfort on you now so that you can say, “Oh, Christine no problem. It’s okay, no worries. Don’t worry about it.” And that makes me feel better, but what we’re really doing is putting our discomfort on someone else and not really owning that discomfort ourselves. We are asking the other person to fix it for us. And what THAT does is take away from the actual real and meaningful relationship.

Stop using “Silly Sorries”

All of us want moments where we are creating those meaningful connections. When we are engaging in conversation with someone, intentionality and end goal in mind is so important. Everyone wants to feel loved validated and heard. Absolutely everyone. Always keep this in mind.

So, how do you really repair damage relationships? How do we resolve conflict? We as human beings, tend to want to avoid, or walk away from conflicts. So how do we do that having more tools? What do you do when conflict happens? What do you do when an apology is necessary?

An apology situation is…

  • Core values and/or integrity were violated
  • Trust is broken
  • Hurt/anger is involved
  • You want or need to repair the relationship
  • The relationship must be improved or different moving forward

Some things to keep in mind…

  • You can’t rationalize the irrational
  • You can’t repair from a place of hurt and anger
  • TOXICITY impacts the ability to repair
  • You can only repair if BOTH parties are willing
  • You CAN ruin a relationship with your words.

There are parameters for success in our relationships and we have to recognize those. You can’t ask more of somebody than they are capable of giving. And you can ruin a relationship with your words. I know we all know this, but in calling this out explicitly, those intentional words, an apology, making and opportunities for repair are critical. You can stop yourself, move backwards to move forwards again, but once you move forward with your words, it’s real hard to come back. If you decide to use some words that aren’t going to work for the repair, then you may be recognizing that you have hit the maximum potential in that relationship and you are no longer working towards apology and repair.

Developing Opportunities for Success

  • An explicit “I’m Sorry” or apology must be said.
  • Must come from a place of love, care, and integrity
  • Must be directly correlated to the violation/damage
  • Must sometimes come from the person being apologized to (hear me out on this!)
caring woman supporting black suffering girlfriend

The Apology Process

  • Egregious Offense
  • Apology
  • Parameters for Success
  • Opportunity for Repair

Breathe in that discomfort, communicate out your needs, and work towards authentic apologies with opportunities for repair.

Tough conversations are HARD! Let’s work together.

About the author

Christine is the founder and owner of Roam Your Soul. She has taken her 20 years of leadership experience and combined it with her passion for building communities and space for people to thrive. Christine focuses on helping people who are confident yet know what they need to work on and helps you  find deeper meaning in life through adventure, transformational learning, and authentic community. 

Christine has a Master’s in transformational leadership/change management and is a strengths-based transformational coach. Christine is a professional presenter and public speaker at national conferences and enjoys facilitating workshops and professional development trainings for organizations. She is currently working on her PhD in Organizational Leadership, specializing in “the human factor” – the responsibility leaders have in  creating “radical care” in the workplace and the connection between personal/interpersonal needs and joy at work.

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