Apology – Sincere and Complete

I’ve edited and re-published this post today.

Gary Chapman has a  somewhat similar sounding book [I’ve not read it], to my model for a complete apology, based on how one would want to be apologized-to. It’s important to find the right style in which the Other prefers to receive apologies.  I think incorporating all these aspects into all meaningful apologies is neither excessive nor inappropriate. Diplomacy and good manners are never inappropriate, and often they make close relationships possible and stronger.  Here’s an outline of my thoughts – do let me know how this works for you.


     1.  First, an authentic ” I’m sorry”, with full acknowledgement of the other’s hurt and pain;


2.  and “I won’t do it again” and/or “I’m Really working on that” – if you can’t yet permanently promise not to do it again, you can say “I’ll do my absolute best not to do it again”, and do your best


3. then, “And how can I make it up to you?” Making amends is critical, so after they have enough time to consider, accept any reasonable request. If you know an action/whatever that might help balance the emotional “books”, you can also offer something specific, for example ” I’ll do  …../ a household task for an appropriate time period” Negotiate if what’s asked is more than feels really right to you. If they say “Nothing” or “That’s OK”, suggest that something might come to one of your minds after a while, and be open to that.


4.  If you agree to do something, do it promptly, completely and willingly;


  5. Then both people can set it aside and forget it, because it’s over. Focus on being in the Present – dragging around pain from the past, remembering /playing it out in your mind again, or bringing it up again will not make anything better, so work at being present centered.

I’ve never seen or personally had a really close relationship which didn’t experience multiple regrettable incidents over time, both with family and friends: small, medium, large and gigantic. This model assumes forgiveness [and self-forgiveness] is possible, and offers a useful, systematic option to work through the inevitable unfortunate occurrences in real life relationships, which would otherwise destroy the relationship.

To my great chagrin, I’ve just had opportunity to use this model connected with a big mistake I made, and we’re processing it together now in group therapy.  Dr Bob

Please share your experience/response to this Post. I'd sure like to know, and it could be useful to someone else. You can click the Post's title to view the entire post, and Comment below, if you like. The "Name Field" will accept any name, so you can be Anonymous [Anon] if you prefer. You must enter your Email to post a comment, but your Email address will not appear publicly. Thanks, Dr Bob
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2 Responses to Apology – Sincere and Complete

  1. My recollection of the method, as you shared with me ca. 2012, was steps 1, 3, 4, and 5 of the above.

    It’s been very useful to me.

    I don’t know that I’ve practiced it EXACTLY when I’ve pulled it out.

    I do know that I’ve found a lot of comfort and utility in the idea of a specific and appropriate amends, and also the Forget About It.

    Some years ago, I apologized a thrift-store volunteer when I ignored the sign that said “do not test spray perfume (from the bottles on sale at the thrift store) — people here are sensitive.” I have no idea why I thought, “oh, I can just spray a tiny bit — no one will notice.” I do know that I got mad when the volunteer was snippy with me when I did it.

    I went home. It took me a half-hour to process feelings. So what that she was snippy? She was hurt. She didn’t act out of proportion to her pain (and even if she had, that was a separate issue.) Indeed, I had //hurt// her. So I called the shop to apologize. She vented for a moment about a potential migraine that might last for a day. Eventually her vent ran out of steam. I asked what I could do to make amends. After a moment of silence, she said, “gosh — wow. Just you calling to say you’re sorry is enough. It really is. Most people wouldn’t. And I’m glad to say that it doesn’t look like I inhaled enough to trigger a migraine.”

    I was very relieved.

    Out of mild embarrassment, I didn’t go back to the store for a few weeks. But I put that aside and remembered that it was time to “forget about it”. I rustled up a bit of courage and determination and went back the store. She wasn’t there, but I felt good that I’d gone.

    I kept going back and the next time I saw her, she gave a big smile and wave. How happy I was! How relieved!

    Funny thing is — she’d never been very nice to me until then. She’d always seemed cold and standoffish — sometimes even rude.

    But after our perfume moment, we were friends.

  2. Dr. Bob says:

    I’m real pleased Phil, that this Apology tool worked so well for you – it postulates the possibility of acceptance, forgiveness and amends instead of holding onto resentments, which sure doesn’t feel good.

    These’re possibilities a lot of us never saw in our original families or knew were possible or existed at all. It make long term intimacy possible, ‘cz I know no relationship that doesn’t offer lots of opportunity and need for these transactions. dr bob

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