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How Apologies Miss the Mark If They Don’t Honor Your Experience

By November 11, 2020November 16th, 2020Private Musings

We’ve all done it. We speak quickly or carelessly and before we realize it, our words have hurt someone. And unfortunately, once harsh words are spoken — or written — they can’t be taken back.  Sometimes, if we regret what we’ve said, we apologize. But a thoughtless apology can be worse than none by failing to honor your experience, and lacking accountability.

Why apologize?

But what are we apologizing for? And why do we regret our words?

Often it’s because we regret the distance we’ve caused and apologize to recreate a sense of comfort and camaraderie. Humans can be self-centered and focused on their priorities. 

At the same time, we have a deep need to connect with others. So when our words or actions jeopardize a bond, we take action to recreate closeness. We apologize for what we’ve said or done.

Consequences of an ineffective apology

But a simple apology isn’t always enough. And an ineffective apology can be worse than none.

There are many examples of ineffective apologies, including the empty apology, the incomplete apology, the excessive, and the denial — which isn’t an apology at all.  Conditional apologies that begin “I’m sorry if” or “I’m sorry but” do nothing to express sincere regret, either. 

An ineffective apology can do more harm than it can heal. Putting conditions on an apology further deflects responsibility and creates even more emotional distance.

What is an apology? 

A sincere apology takes into consideration the reason the other person hurts. And it includes taking responsibility for one’s words and actions. It requires being accountable for oneself. In addition, it takes into consideration the other person.

It’s only human

We all make mistakes.  We do and say things we regret. It’s human. Owning up to those mistakes is responsibly human, as well.

For regrets to be genuinely received and repair relationships, those regrets need to be authentic.  They need to accomplish a minimum of two things:

  1. accept responsibility and
  2. respect the other person

Be an adult — take responsibility

Taking responsibility is as simple as following through on what you say. Having integrity means being consistent in your thoughts, words, and actions.

So if you’ve let someone down – take responsibility.

Own your mistake. The truth is, you haven’t just let someone else down.

By not being consistent with yourself and following through on what you promised, you let yourself down. If you reflect and are honest, you may find that your biggest disappointment in the situation is with yourself.

More than one — or two — perspectives

Relationships are more than the sum of two people. They are, at a minimum, ourself, the other person, and the combination of the two individuals. 

Problem is, to build rapport in a relationship, we sometimes attempt to equalize experiences, rather than discover the differences. The result is that this undervalues both individuals.  

The human need for acknowledgement

It’s a human need to be acknowledged — to be seen as who we are at a deep identity-level. Ignoring someone’s perspective is the equivalent of saying they don’t matter. We draw our perspective from many aspects, including our experiences. They all combine to create who we are. And that identity is the core of our being.

Experiences are a patchwork of how we have spent our time.  They reflect how we have invested our money, our heart, our intellect and our soul, as well as the people with whom we have expended our time and emotions.

To erase that unique intricacy of experience by leveling it, rather than acknowledging its differences, is to invalidate the depth of the effort and the richness of the landscape  — and the person. Intimacy isn’t achieved. And the relationship is distanced further.


When people spend time in conversation, brain entrainment occurs. Brain waves synchronize as the words fall into sense and a rhythm is formed.

An electromagnetic resonance of heart patterning falls into sync, as well. This heart synchronization occurs between two individuals (or more).

These synchronizations — both brain and heart — are physical. And they occur automatically, although we can stimulate and develop their occurrence as a skill.

But we risk extending this physical resonance ability by intellectually and emotionally applying the same reasoning. Our brains, hearts, and bodies can bring us closer.

We as individuals need to have the intelligence and emotional maturity to practice discernment and respect individuation of personality. The closeness that is experienced via physical entrainment is not equally achieved through thinking.


It won’t always hold true that just because someone likes ‘x’, their friend will, as well. It takes time to learn whether that is true. It takes forming a genuine relationship.

When someone expresses enthusiasm or joy for another’s success, it isn’t the same as wanting that for oneself. It can be, and often is, a genuine reaction of joy for that individual’s desires. Extrapolating an interpretation that the same goal belongs to that individual undermines them as a unique individual.

Rebuild trust that’s broken

Listening is easy. And it is the way to open communication in a relationship — the kind that creates genuine connection rather than fosters assumptions that undermine identity. 

Not everyone feels the need to express their experiences. Many enjoy having lived their past and inhabiting the present. But no-one deserves to have their legacy erased and their identity undermined. Those past experiences are what compose our current reality. 

Honor their journey of experience

No two life journeys are alike.  To assume two people have walked the same path, without learning the facts, is to erase the individuality of a soul. When we don’t take the time and care to learn those details, it gently but firmly broadcasts we aren’t important enough to be a priority for the other person. 

Turn it around

Ready to rebuild that bond?

Rebuild trust and strengthen the bond in a relationship by genuinely caring where you mis-stepped.

  1. Take responsibility for your words
  2. Care how your words affected the other person
  3. Make a genuine apology

And while you’re taking care of others, take time to consider where and how you let yourself down. Rebuild trust in yourself by keeping your word to yourself.

Be the person you know yourself to be.

If you’d support on the subject of integrity and values, I offer resources for individuals and organizations committed to transformational change. Check out my Life Purpose Quiz and assorted books and workbooks.

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