How To Apologize Without Guilt

You blew your stack and said something you shouldn’t have. Yes, yes, you were justified. She has made that same mistake a dozen times. But since she continues to behave the same way, your corrections are not having any effect. You realize the problem is one that requires shared responsibilities. Blah. Blah. Blah.

So how do you apologize to her — without looking as if you are weak/insincere/addicted to this pathological routine? There’s only one way: You have to resolve — in the most serious way — that you won’t behave like that again. You have to think about what you said, why you said it, and try to recognize what signals your unwanted actions. Get that signal clearly in your mind. Feel it. And then imagine yourself behaving in some other, more effective and less harmful way.

Imagine your preferred behavior over and over again until it feels natural. Once you’ve trained yourself to have an instinctively good response to the imagined situation, you’ll feel surprisingly confident that you’ll be able to handle the real thing. And the truth is that you probably will. After you’ve done all this work — and not before — make your apology. Don’t humiliate yourself and don’t grovel.

You made a mistake — one you’ve made before — but you’ve also taken the time to correct it. You are no longer the person you were. Your apology should reflect that fact. Cast your apology in the past tense. Say, “About our argument yesterday. I have given it a good deal of thought and realize my behavior was wrong. I have thought about other, better ways I could have handled the situation and will act differently in the future.” If you mean it, it won’t hurt so much to say it.

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]