How To Apologize To Someone You Hurt In 6 Steps

How To Apologize To Someone You Hurt In 6 Steps

Let’s chat about saying sorry and fixing things in relationships. Apologizing is key, especially in long-term relationships like marriage. You're bound to step on your partner's toes, hurt their feelings, or not meet their needs perfectly. So, learning how to apologize to someone you hurt is crucial. Let's dive into the steps for a solid apology.

How to Apologize To Someone You Hurt

Step one- Summarize your partner's complaint.

You want to make sure you understand their complaint correctly. So, as they talk about what bothered them or hurt their feelings, you have to feed it back to them. But here's the thing - don't add your own twist or mock their view. Just stick to their experience. You might say something like, "So, you feel I have a pattern of ____, it makes you feel ____, and it taps into your core need for ____, is that right? 

This summary helps you check if you got the message correct. Because, let's be real, we all have our own inner dialogue when we hear a complaint. It's also good for your partner, letting them know you're really listening, and giving them a chance to tweak what they said. 

Step two- The 50% rule. 

The 50% rule is like the MVP of apology-making, it’s so important! Here's the deal: the entire complaint is not necessarily your fault. Your circumstances may have been to blame and your partner might be projecting onto you. 

But here's the kicker – you can't just brush it off completely either. So, while you're soaking in their complaint, you have to ask yourself, "What’s my part in this?" That's why it's called the 50% rule. Sometimes you might think, "Yeah, I can take about 20% blame." Other times, it might be more like 90%. Most times, it's smack dab in the middle – around 50%. Now, here's the secret sauce: keep this part to yourself. It's an internal brainstorming session. 

This is where you silently ponder, "What's the nugget of truth in this complaint? What part can I own with sincerity? How did I contribute? What could I have done better?" Sometimes, it hits you like a lightning bolt – instant realization. Other times, you might need to chew on it for a bit. Don't rush it. If you're stuck, consider roping in a relationship coach. 

Step three – Make an ownership statement.

This is where you tell your partner, "I own I have a tendency to ......." Whether it's being a lousy listener, being too self-absorbed, being a bit of a control freak, or always trying to fix instead of just empathizing. 

Here's the trick – don't explain why you do it because it will sound like defensiveness. For instance, if I say, "I own that I tend to get defensive because you're critical," that's a no-go. Blaming your partner for your behavior is a cop out. With that logic, you're never responsible for your behavior. You're responsible for your words and actions regardless of your partner's behaviors. Sure, your partner's actions might influence how you want to respond, but it's always a choice. 

Step four – Empathize with how the behavior you're owning makes your partner feel.

This is where you really try to step into your partner's shoes. Think about their upbringing, their values, those little insecurities they might be carrying, their needs, hopes, and even the stressors they're juggling. It's like putting together a puzzle of who your partner is. Once you get that picture, suddenly, their feelings will make sense to you. If their feelings don't make sense, it's because you're seeing the situation from your perspective not theirs. 

Now, here's the scoop on empathy – it's seeing the world through their unique lens, based on all those bits that make them who they are. As they share about their complaint, you start connecting the dots. "Oh, that bothers them because it hits a sore spot from way back," or "No wonder it hurt their feelings – that's one of their top needs." It becomes a mental math problem.

So, here's the empathy statement to make, "It makes sense that me doing ____ would make you feel ____."

Step 5- Apologize for how the behavior you're owning makes your partner feel.

This is similar to the previous step but with a slight shift in language. This is where you're apologizing for how the behavior you're owning makes your partner feel. Here's where you lay it out and say, "I am so sorry for how me doing ____ makes you feel ____." 

Step 6 – Make amends for the behavior you're owning.

So, you've owned your behavior, empathized, and apologized. Now it's time to figure out what you're going to do about it. Let's be real, the best way to say sorry is through changed behavior, but change takes time.

Here's the deal though – if you're saying sorry and then go back to the same old behavior, it's going to upset your partner even further. So, it's key to roll up your sleeves and make a real effort to switch things up. Think about what tweaks you can make that'll also work for you, because if it doesn't work for you, it's not gonna stick. And don't go for the easy way out with basic solutions like, "Oh, I'll just get better," that's too vague. Get down to the nitty-gritty– what concrete steps can you take to level up?

If you're scratching your head, unsure where to start, no sweat. You can say, "I'm gonna dig into this and do some research." Look up articles, podcasts, books – whatever it takes. Don't forget to loop in your partner also– ask them, "What do you think? What else would you appreciate?" Give them a chance to share what they'd love to see. Then, of all the ideas generated you choose which ones you want to implement. You having the final say on what actions you'll take keeps you in control of the change process which will encourage follow-through compared to if you're being told what to do.

Finally, grab your phone, bring up the note section, and jot down what you're committing to. Then, a few times a week, pull it up and review it. I've done this in my own marriage – I call it my Partner Cheat Sheet. It's a list of behaviors you're trying to work on to become a better partner. Checking it a few times a week is often all that's needed to eventually start changing your behavior. As your behavior changes, your partner will start feeling hope. 

In summary, here are the six steps on how to apologize to someone you hurt.
1. Summarize your partner's complaint.
2. The 50% rule.
3. Make an ownership statement.
4. Empathize with how the behavior you're owning makes your partner feel.
5. Apologize for how the behavior you're owning makes your partner feel.
6. Make amends for the behavior you're owning.

For further reading see below.

For arguments use the Mini Reunite Tool for Conflict Resolution

For deeper resentments use the Full Reunite Tool for Conflict Resolution

Dr. Wyatt Fisher

Receive my FREE PDF on 4 Steps To Better Communication. Click here to get it! 

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