Why Some People Find it Difficult to Apologise

Photo by mark tulin

Many friendships and relationships break up primarily because pride and ego get in the way of agreement and harmony. Some people find it hard to apologise for anything, even though they know they did something wrong or inappropriate. They feel that it makes them look worse, or belittles them in some way. Yet they are likely to expect others to always apologise, so that they can feel ‘right’ or vindicated.

But saying ‘I’m sorry’ is not about being right or wrong. It is open contrition for any hurt you might have caused your friend, relative, colleague, or partner. It shows that you are empathising with them while you affirm them by showing how much they are valued. It is also about putting the relationship first, instead of the individuals involved; to seek a more enjoyable interaction based on equality, trust and appreciation, rather than a feeling of superiority or one-upmanship regarding who has the upper hand.

In fact, to be able to say ‘sorry’ easily and confidently, and mean it, does three main things for us:

1. It acknowledges our fallibility – and right – to make mistakes, to commit errors, and to not always get it right.

2. It affirms that our life is a journey of self development, and every step will be a learning tool to help us deal with similar actions in the future. Above all, it reinforces the fact that we are forever growing, and are not stagnant in our development. We really don’t have all the answers at any stage of life. There will always be something we need to learn.

3. It’s a sign of forgiveness for both parties, no matter who is at fault. It brings the problem to a conclusion, and moves on those involved in a more positive way.

When we ignore problematic interactions by not acknowledging their lessons, or refusing to accept that we were not quite right in our reaction, we deprive ourselves of learning the message, and are likely to keep repeating that pattern of behaviour, ad nauseam, while we blame others for being in the ‘wrong’.

The confident individual will be quick to say ‘sorry’, not because they are weak, or fearful of the other person, but because they recognise that no one is infallible, and the mark of a caring, responsible person is to own their actions.

Personally, I always apologise, especially when I sense that I might be at fault (Brits are notorious for saying ‘sorry’ without any reason!). If there is any doubt, I apologise anyway, with the hope that the other person will appreciate my efforts to understand their perspective. In that way we can put the matter behind us, resume good vibes, and have a more satisfying interaction, instead of having an obstacle to communication. However, if I sense that someone is repeatedly taking advantage and expecting me to apologise every time, I simply don’t, unless they demonstrate that they are acknowledging their own actions, too.

The main thing to remember is that our relationship with others who matter to us is far more important than being right or wrong. If the relationship is breaking, trivial things will assume priority. It means that we might feel momentarily good at not admitting our fallibility, or hurtful behaviour, but we could also lose a whole lot more if our egos take control.

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