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The Anatomy of an Authentic Apology

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“Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?”
~ Dr. Wayne Dyer

Being in love can stir up feelings of vulnerability for many people. When we let our guard down and show our authentic selves, there is always the possibility that we will be rejected or, worse, humiliated. This possibility activates fear. I have counseled couples for many years and dysfunctional communication is one of the top reasons relationships fail. Fear is an underlying driving force for defensive, reactionary behavior and fuels the need to be right or to “win.” A fear response is the same as an ego response. You have to actively choose love over fear/ego and, in the heat of the moment, this can be challenging.

I have been happily married for fifteen years. One of the most important aspects to keeping our relationship healthy and strong is our conscious effort to promptly admit when we are wrong and to apologize authentically. Having this give and take of good faith builds a strong foundation of trust and keeps fear to a minimum.
This week I want to talk about the anatomy of an authentic apology. Do you know how to say you’re sorry and mean it?

Let’s look at a couple common ways people think they’re apologizing but they’re actually not.

1. Do you say things like

“I am sorry, but _____________” (fill in the excuse for your bad behavior here)
e.g. “I’m sorry, but I was tired”

“I am sorry, but YOU _____________” (fill in justification for retaliatory bad behavior here)
e.g. “I’m sorry, but you were annoying me.”

“I’m sorry, OK?” (Add frustrated not at all sorry sounding tone here)

“I’m sorry you think that I did something that I need to be sorry for.”

2. Do you act out your feeling of remorse rather than putting words on it?

A friend of mine told me that in 13 years of marriage her husband has never said, “I’m sorry,” but she knows he is because he acts nicer than usual.

An authentic apology does not include any qualifier after the words “I’m sorry.”

An authentic apology looks something like this:

“I’m really sorry, I was wrong.” (Stop talking)
“I am sorry. I should not have _____________. It will not happen again.” (Stop talking)
The key to an authentic apology includes saying you are sorry and allowing the other person to tell you what they experienced or why they are upset.
I want you to think about how you apologize and what you need to do to actually BE sorry and communicate it in an authentic and effective way.
If this resonates with you, please share your comments. I know this can be a hot-button issue, so I’m sure you have something to say!

I hope you have an amazing week, and, as always, take care of you.


Terri Cole – Psychotherapist & Transformation Coach

Terri Cole, founder and CEO of Live Fearless and Free, is a licensed psychotherapist, transformation coach, and an expert at turning fear into freedom. For almost two decades, Terri has empowered celebrities, professional athletes, and individuals alike through television, radio, and other media appearances, speaking engagements, workshops, and a thriving private practice to redesign limiting mental blueprints. Her holistic approach to transformation recognizes the interdependency between a healthy mind and body. Terri’s strategies combine practical psychology, thought innovation, and harnessing the power of intention, to create sustainable change. She has a unique ability to take complex theories and translate them into actionable steps you can implement into your daily life. A cornerstone of Terri’s practice, meditation, was the impetus for her recently released guided mediation CD “Meditation Transformation”. After contributing to Kris Carr’s best-selling Crazy Sexy Cancer book series, Terri is now working on her first solo project, Flip Over and Float, documenting her proven 6-step formula for turning fear into freedom and pain into purpose. In Fall 2012, she will begin hosting a Hay House radio show, giving listeners who are swimming upstream easy tools to flip over and float.


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Article updated on: August 1st, 2012

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