A good apology can heal old wounds, strengthen connections, and pave the way for deeper understanding. But good apologies are an art form — one that few of us feel particularly skilled at. So here, we talk about the features of good and not-so-good apologies, when apologies are called for, and how they can be best delivered in the service of both the apologizer and the recipient.

This week on The Living Experiment, we’re talking about Apologizing — the reasons it’s worth doing, and the art of doing it well.

We explore the value that a good apology can have in healing conflict and shame, and the reasons our well-intended apologies sometimes don’t go as well as we’d like.

We talk about the characteristics of good and not-so-good apologies, about private apologies and public ones.

Finally, we offer you some experiments to help you evolve your own apologetic skills and sensitivities in ways that work for you.

“Apologizing” Episode Highlights

  • The context of the “Me Too” movement, and our world’s many other overdue apologies
  • The inflammatory stress caused by strained relationships and unresolved conflicts
  • How superfluous and disingenuous apologizing can undermine the value of substantive apologies
  • Dallas reflects on the fact that women tend to apologize more than men
  • Features of a good apology
  • The healing opportunity an apology provides for the giver and the receiver
  • Pilar shares the most meaningful apologies she’s received and why they mattered
  • The nature of transactional vs. heartfelt apologies
  • When apologies need to come with reparations
  • The danger of using an apology to force closure
  • The question of justice vs. retribution vs. support for healing
  • Being willing to hear the other person’s experience, and how apologies can bring up stored feelings
  • The value of public vs. private apologies (Pilar shares an experience)
  • The feeling of “being owed” an apology, and what to do with that feeling

1) Think about an apology you owe somebody, then go make that apology. In the course of your apology, emphasize the significance of your connection with this person, that they mean something to you. Share your authentic feelings of regret at having hurt or disappointed them.

2) Think of an apology that you feel you are owed, but have not received. Recognize that, for reasons unknown to you, you may never receive that apology. Let it go. Move forward without expecting an apology, and see what happens.

Plan a micro-apology. Think about a small but irritating habitual behavior of yours (like being late, leaving the toilet seat up, interrupting, or checking your phone at the table) that you know bothers someone close to you. In the moment where you’d normally do that thing, don’t. Tell the person that you are aware you typically do this thing, that you recognize it bothers them, that you feel badly about it, and that you intent to make a change around it.

Be willing to listen to the other person share how your patterned behavior has impacted them, what they’re thinking and feeling about it, and what they’d like you to do differently. Thank them for sharing their thoughts and feelings. Then act on your promise of improvement, and notice how that feels.

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