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Video: How to say ‘I’m sorry’

By
TODAY contributor
updated 9/14/2009 4:11:26 PM ET 2009-09-14T20:11:26

We all make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. So why is apologizing so darn difficult to do? Most of us like to be the recipient of a heartfelt apology, but giving is different from receiving, isn't it?

As I'm sure you've figured out, there are many reasons why saying "I'm sorry" is such a challenging endeavor. First of all, who likes to admit they're wrong? It's NOT fun! Believe me, I know. I've had lots of practice.

Sometimes it's the fear of rejection that makes an apology so hard to say. The prospect of getting a cold shoulder, not being forgiven or losing a friend can understandably be unsettling, especially when it comes from someone you still love, care about and want to maintain a relationship with. Sometimes people feel that initiating an apology is a sign of weakness.

Apologizing can make some people feel vulnerable, or feel like they are in danger of losing their power and status. Others simply equate saying "I'm sorry" with admitting they're inadequate or incompetent, which makes admitting mistakes so much harder to do. Some people find saying they’re sorry humiliating. Perhaps they were criticized harshly by parents or other important people while growing up, and as a result avoid admitting mistakes because of the horrible feelings it brings up.

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Some people prefer to stay in denial. Their logic goes something like this: If you don't admit you've done anything wrong, then it's almost like not doing anything wrong at all. If there is no admission of fault, then there is no need to take responsibility. If it were only that easy! Some view giving an apology in very black-and-white terms. Giving an apology is like being the "loser" and the person receiving the apology is the "winner."

The one who is wrong needs to ask forgiveness from the one who is right. Understandably, that's not a fun thought. Sometimes it's our pride or ego that gets in the way. And, of course, those who lack empathy can have a hard time embracing another person's feelings or perspective altogether, which makes saying sorry virtually impossible to do.

Apologies aren't supposed to be easy. They are supposed to be soul-baring. That's why, when done right, they are so powerful and rehabilitative. It's hard to admit that we've hurt someone's feelings or caused someone pain, whether it's intentional or not. It's also hard to see ourselves in a less-than-positive light. It requires taking off the blinders we wear and facing our flaws.

Saying sorry is meant to make us feel vulnerable. How could it not? But here's the thing: It's really important to do in order for us to have healthy relationships. We all want and need to feel safe with the people we allow into our inner circle. We want to know that the people we are close to care about how we feel and are willing to admit their flaws. Not taking responsibility for wrongdoings makes us seem unsafe or untrustworthy. And withholding an apology is certainly not going to win us any friends! Saying you're sorry shows those you love that you care enough about them and the relationship to be aware of your shortcomings and take responsibility for your hurtful actions. In the end, making things right is way more important than being right.

Psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig has hosted two seasons of TLC’s reality show “One Week to Save Your Marriage” as well as GSN’s reality game show “Without Prejudice.” She currently has a private practice in New York City where she treats both individuals and couples. Find out more at drrobiludwig.com.


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