On the March 4th episode of Heart 2 Heart with Elizabeth Kupferman, Heartbeat Radio for Woman host Michelle Wargo and I talked about The Real Apology and how it can be used to improve the quality of your relationships with others. Shown below are my show notes, followed by the podcast.
It’s not enough to say I’m sorry when we’ve done something to hurt someone else. Saying “I’m sorry” is only the beginning.
The Real Apology comes from the Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch. He was the author of the book “The Last Lecture.” There are amazing YouTube videos of him giving his last lecture. The reason it was his last lecture was because he had terminal pancreatic cancer and only had a short time to live. If you haven’t seen the videos or read his book, I highly recommend them.
Here is the how you give a Real Apology:
1. I’m sorry.
2. It was my fault.
3. How can I make it up to you?
This is why none of the “I’m sorrys” you’ve received felt good or were the least bit healing – because the necessary remorse, responsibility and amends were missing. What is so great about the Real Apology, is that once you know about it, you will never have to endure a fake apology ever again.
I recommend you teach it to your closest family members when you are not in a fight. It’s especially good for children – It’s the instant cure for “I said I was sorrrry!!!” (Picture eye-rolling and a disgusted face -actually some adults say it that way too.) The next time you get the mean or insincere “I’m sorry,” usually followed by the anger because how dare you not “forgive” them. You can now simply say that you appreciate their apology, but that it is not a “Real Apology” and teach them what the Real Apology is. Then, it is up to them whether or not they are actually sorry depending on whether they give you the Real Apology or not and you will know if they are sorry or not.
In fact, in his book, Randy Pausch talks about how a “bad apology is worse than no apology” and that when we hurt each other – intentionally or unintentionally, it is like an infection in our relationship. So, no apology would be like letting the infection continue and the Real Apology would be like the antibiotic. The reason a bad apology is worse is because “it is like rubbing salt in the wound.” Just to clarify, a bad apology is anything that does not have the 3 steps.
1. I’m sorry. It’s the set up – it is the introduction to the healing.
2. It is my fault – The person is taking FULL responsibility – not indicating, for instance that if I had not yelled, then you would have not have hit me or saying that “I made you do it” or that you weren’t feeling well or that you had a hard day and that’s why you stormed out or didn’t call me on my birthday.
3. What can I do to make it up to you? – the amends – this can be little – like “you can take the dog out next” or “rub my shoulders for 15 minutes.” It could be something huge like “please don’t ever do it again” or “learn to trust me more” or “go to marriage counseling with me.”
Why would we ask others to go to these lengths or to put ourselves through it (it is not fun to be the one apologizing!!)? Because it will make our lives better, we’ll align our words with our actions, we’ll have no infection in our relationships, we won’t have a build up of resentments and we will be operating from a clean slate. It brings us closer to the ones we love and gets us back to the business of loving each other fully. It releases both parties. The giver is freed because he/she is off the hook for the bad thing they did and the receiver is free to forgive fully because they set the criteria for forgiveness. It’s perfection. I’ve been on both sides of a Real Apology and I have been awed by what a profound difference it makes.
Reference: Pausch, Randy. 2008. The Last Lecture
For more on the Real Apology, you can listen to the podcast of Michelle Wargo and I discuss it on Heartbeat Radio for Women.