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Last Updated on January 14, 2021

How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

Despite our best intentions and efforts, making mistakes is a fact of life. Humans are prone to error, so we are inevitably going to mess up at one point or another.

Many of the slip ups we make won’t have any impact on those around us, but what about the times when they do hurt someone else, either inadvertently or purposefully? Do we ignore the mistake and hope it will go away on its own? Do we confront the mistake, however painful that may be, and apologize? How we react to our mistakes defines both who we are and how we are perceived by others.

I’m a voice and presence coach specializing in training people to find their voice and speak their truth. One of the most difficult tasks I teach my students is how to apologize authentically. It takes a lot of vulnerability to admit wrongdoing, and even more so to seek forgiveness and make amends. (After all, we live in a world where some of our top leaders openly avoid taking accountability for their mistakes.) However, like anything else in life, if you ignore something painful instead of facing it, that pain tends to grow and appear in other parts of your life. It’s better to face these things head on.

So how do you apologize effectively? Technically, there is no one “right” way, but there are plenty of ineffective ways to go about apologizing. I’m going to approach this from the perspective that we are genuinely remorseful and wish to make amends for the hurt we have caused.

Simply saying, “I’m sorry” is easy. But it’s important that your words match your intention. It’s complex to apologize authentically when you have made a mistake – to utter remorse that is grounded in your truth, and it’s what we’re going to cover here.

In order to make a genuine apology, I refer to a practice introduced to me by a mentor several years ago: the Hawaiian Ho’oponopono prayer. I’m not an expert on Hawaiian prayer, but having meditated with this one for a number of years, I can say that this practice of reconciliation and forgiveness is incredibly powerful.

Ho’oponopono means “to make right” or “rectify an error.” What sets this practice apart is that the focus is not on controlling a particular outcome (i.e. healing the hurt relationship you have with this person), but instead on healing yourself in order to heal the situation.

The Ho’oponopono prayer is profoundly simple, and translates as follows:

I’m sorry.

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you.

Everything we need to apologize is right here. Let’s break down the structure of this apology into these 4 concrete steps for before, during, and after the apology.

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Before the Apology

Step 1: I’m Sorry – What are you sorry for?

Before you start speaking and leading from pure emotion, it’s important to actually figure out what you are sorry for:

Start by Writing Down the Facts

When you’re writing this out, avoid assigning any judgments to the scenario or making any assumptions about the person affected by your mistake. Instead stick to straight facts. Dump the whole situation onto the page, including all the details.

Ex. My friend was having a hard time with her boyfriend. She kept complaining to me about it, and I was tired of listening to the situation. I also felt I knew exactly what was going on, and what was not working, so I finally got blunt and told her my opinion. She was very offended. I realized afterward that she just needed an ear to listen, and she wasn’t looking for my advice.

Write Down Your Part in Making This Mistake

Stick to your contribution only. Avoid speaking for anyone else, simply focus on what you did that you know helped create the situation.

Ex. I gave feedback that my friend wasn’t interested in hearing. My mistake was assuming that she’d be better off if she heard what I had to say.

After Writing It All Down, Ask Yourself How You’re Feeling by Grounding Yourself in Your Truth

I teach a process to my clients called the Voice Body Connection process, which starts with grounding yourself in your physical sensations. This process will help you find your voice and speak your truth objectively, even if you are flooded with strong emotions in the moment.

Identify the Physical Sensations You Feel

Now that you have relived the experience of making the mistake by writing it out, tune into your body, and ask yourself the question:

“What is the strongest SENSATION I feel in my body right now?”

Be sure to keep this body-based. When you are preparing to apologize, taking note of your sensations helps you ground yourself in how you are feeling so that you can show up.

Ex. I feel an aching sensation in my heart.

Identify Why You Think You Are Feeling This Sensation

After you’ve identified your primary sensations, ask yourself the following question:

“What do I think is the STIMULUS that led me to feel this sensation?”

This is likely a very simple statement that you already wrote about. It’s the heart of the matter.

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Ex. I gave my friend advice she wasn’t asking for.

Identify Your Emotions About This Situation

Now that you know why you are feeling these physical sensations, move to identify your emotions. Ask yourself:

“What are my EMOTIONS about noticing all of this?”

Some primary emotions are fear, anger, sadness, disgust, joy, and arousal.

Ex. I’m feeling sad that I crossed my friend’s boundaries.

Identify Your Ideal Outcome For This Situation

Your emotions are tied to your desire for a future outcome. Ask yourself,

“Do I have any desires related to everything I just noticed?”

Examples of core desires are safety, comfort, bonding/love, and curiosity/growth.

Ex. I want to repair the relationship so that we can be close again.

Make Sure You Actually Want Forgiveness And Reconnection

Please keep in mind that if in this process, you discover that you don’t feel safe with this other person. There’s no reason to apologize and re-connect.

But if you feel safe and comfortable with them and desire to be connected again, then you can proceed to the next step of the Ho’oponopono prayer.

During the Apology

Step 2: Please Forgive Me

You’re not going to share everything from your process above with your friend. What you are going to share is your acknowledgment of the hurt you caused, your part in creating that situation, and your desire to reconnect[1].

It’s also very important to be clear about only speaking your truth and not commenting on their side. That’s their job.

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You can use this script by filling in the observations you noted above:

I think <a simple statement about what happened> happened between us…

And I believe my mistake was <insert your part here>…

I am left feeling <insert your emotions>…

and moving forward, I would want to <insert your desires>.

Ex. I think I gave you feedback that you weren’t interested in hearing…

And I believe my mistake was assuming that you’d be better off if you heard what I felt I needed to say.

I am left feeling sad that I crossed your boundaries.

And moving forward what I really want is to be close to you again, and to assure you that I will ask permission in the future before I give you advice.

Once you’ve shared this introductory olive branch, stop talking about yourself. This is it for now…. it’s all you needed to say to get the conversation started.

Your next job is to listen and be curious. Ask open-ended questions about their experience like “How did that feel for you?”. De-center yourself and let your friend share as much as they need to. When you do speak, let them know that you hear what they are saying, and acknowledge your impact.

I’ll grant you that this is hard to do – it’s easy to get defensive. But your checklist is:

  • Tell them you heard them
  • Let them know you understand you had an impact on them
  • Ask them more about their experience

Step 3: Thank You

Now that you have asked the other person about their experience, it is quite possible that they will say things you don’t want to hear. You may find yourself feeling defensive or even angry. A stressful situation like this can trigger “fight or flight” mode in your body: you may notice that you start sweating, that your pupils are narrowing, that your eyes tear up, that you start experiencing tunnel vision. This is all normal.

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To help stave this off and stay present, keep being genuinely curious about what their experience has been. Don’t listen to be “right,” listen to be connected. Listen to understand.

Even if they say something you don’t like hearing, thank them anyway for sharing the truth of their experience and for being in your life. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but it is a necessary step towards your own healing in the Ho’oponopono prayer.

Moving Forward Post-Apology

Step 4: I Love You

Let’s say you’re actually at a place where the relationship you have with the other person can be repaired. “I love you” encourages curiosity: how can you repair and reconnect? How can things look different moving forward?

Think of something you can do to express and experience your love, appreciation, or respect for each other. Make a plan for how to move forward.

A great practice is to make a list of things you are grateful for about the other person. Be sure to share this list, either as a letter or just out loud. It’s important to share how much we appreciate each other, and it feels as good to give gratitude as it does to receive it.

This last portion of the prayer is not just for the other person… it’s for you as well. Filling yourself with a sense of love ensures that you’ll be able to move on from the mistake and heal. It’s easy for many of us to beat ourselves up and continue to hold onto guilt, or even shame, about a mistake we have made — even though we are genuinely remorseful and have tried to make amends.

You can continue to repeat the entire Ho’oponopono prayer to yourself after the encounter where you have apologized:

I’m sorry.
Please forgive me.

Thank you.

I love you.

In doing so, you may find you’re apologizing to yourself too.

The Bottom Line

To speak our truth in an apology, we must show up fully without expecting anything of the other person. Though we cannot affect or control the outcome of the apology, no matter how repentant we are, following the Ho’oponopono can guide us to true repair and healing.

If you have been stuck on finding the “right” way to reconnect and apologize to someone in your life, I hope this process inspired by the Ho’oponopono prayer will help you to make that first step.

More on How to Apologize

Featured photo credit: Gus Moretta via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Elissa Weinzimmer

Vocal Health and Confidence Coach and Founder of Voice Body Connection

How To Speak Up For Yourself When You Don’t Know How How to Apologize When You Have Made a Mistake

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Published on May 4, 2021

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

How To Spot Fake People (And Ways To Deal With Them)

They say we are the average of the five persons we spend the most time with. For a minute, consider the people around you. Are they truly who your “tribe” should be or who you aspire to become in the future? Are they really genuine people who want to see you succeed? Or are they fake people who don’t really want to see you happy?

In this article, I’ll review why it is important to surround yourself with genuine individuals—the ones who care, bring something to our table, and first and foremost, who leave all fakeness behind.

How to Spot Fake People?

When you’ve been working in the helping professions for a while, spotting fake people gets a bit easier. There are some very clear signs that the person you are looking at is hiding something, acting somehow, or simply wanting to get somewhere. Most often, there is a secondary gain—perhaps attention, sympathy, or even a promotion.

Whatever it is, you’re better off working their true agenda and staying the hell away. Here are some things you should look out for to help spot fake people.

1. Full of Themselves

Fake people like to show off. They love looking at themselves in the mirror. They collect photos and videos of every single achievement they had and every part of their body and claim to be the “best at what they do.”

Most of these people are actually not that good in real life. But they act like they are and ensure that they appear better than the next person. The issue for you is that you may find yourself always feeling “beneath” them and irritated at their constant need to be in the spotlight.

2. Murky in Expressing Their Emotions

Have you ever tried having a deep and meaningful conversation with a fake person? It’s almost impossible. It’s because they have limited emotional intelligence and don’t know how they truly feel deep down—and partly because they don’t want to have their true emotions exposed, no matter how normal these might be.

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It’s much harder to say “I’m the best at what I do” while simultaneously sharing “average” emotions with “equal” people.

3. Zero Self-Reflection

To grow, we must accept feedback from others. We must be open to our strengths and to our weaknesses. We must accept that we all come in different shapes and can always improve.

Self-reflection requires us to think, forgive, admit fault, and learn from our mistakes. But to do that, we have to be able to adopt a level of genuineness and depth that fake people don’t routinely have. A fake person generally never apologizes, but when they do, it is often followed with a “but” in the next breath.

4. Unrealistic Perceptions

Fake people most often have an unrealistic perception of the world—things that they want to portray to others (pseudo achievements, materialistic gains, or a made-up sense of happiness) or simply how they genuinely regard life outside themselves.

A lot of fake people hide pain, shame, and other underlying reasons in their behavior. This could explain why they can’t be authentic and/or have difficulties seeing their environment for the way it objectively is (both good and bad).

5. Love Attention

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest sign that something isn’t quite right with someone’s behavior can be established by how much they love attention. Are you being interrupted every time you speak by someone who wants to make sure that the spotlight gets reverted back to them? Is the focus always on them, no matter the topic? If yes, you’re probably dealing with a fake person.

6. People Pleaser

Appreciation feels nice but having everyone like you is even better. While it is completely unrealistic for most people to please everyone all the time, fake people seem to always say yes in pursuit of constant approval.

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Now, this is a problem for two reasons. Firstly, these people are simply saying yes to things for their own satisfaction. Secondly, they often end up changing their minds or retracting their offer for one reason or another (“I would have loved to, but my grandmother suddenly fell ill.”), leaving you in the lurch for the 100th time this year.

7. Sarcasm and Cynicism

Behind the chronic pasted smile, fake people are well known for brewing resentment, jealousy, or anger. This is because, behind the postcard life, they are often unhappy. Sarcasm and cynicism are well known to act as a defense mechanism, sometimes even a diversion—anything so they can remain feeling on top of the world, whether it is through boosting themselves or bringing people down.

8. Crappy friend

Fake people are bad friends. They don’t listen to you, your feelings, and whatever news you might have to share. In fact, you might find yourself migrating away from them when you have exciting or bad news to share, knowing that it will always end up one way—their way. In addition, you might find that they’re not available when you truly need them or worse, cancel plans at the last minute.

It’s not unusual to hear that a fake person talks constantly behind people’s backs. Let’s be honest, if they do it to others, they’re doing it to you too. If your “friend” makes you feel bad constantly, trust me, they’re not achieving their purpose, and they’re simply not a good person to have around.

The sooner you learn to spot these fake people, the sooner you can meet meaningful individuals again.

How to Cope With Fake People Moving Forward?

It is important to remind yourself that you deserve more than what you’re getting. You are worthy, valuable, precious, and just as important as the next person.

There are many ways to manage fake people. Here are some tips on how to deal with them.

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1. Boundaries

Keep your boundaries very clear. As explained in the book Unlock Your Resilience, boundaries are what keep you sane when the world tries to suffocate you. When fake people become emotional vampires, make sure to keep your distances, limit contact, and simply replace them with more valuable interactions.

2. Don’t Take Their Behavior Personally

Sadly, they most likely have behaved this way before they knew you and will continue much longer after you have moved on. It isn’t about you. It is about their inner need to meet a void that you are not responsible for. And in all honesty, unless you are a trained professional, you are unlikely to improve it anyway.

3. Be Upfront and Honest About How You Feel

If your “friend” has been hurtful or engaged in behaviors you struggle with, let them know—nicely, firmly, however you want, but let them know that they are affecting you. If it works, great. If it doesn’t, you’ll feel better and when you’re ready to move on, you’ll know you tried to reach out. Your conscience is clear.

4. Ask for Advice

If you’re unsure about what you’re seeing or feeling, ask for advice. Perhaps a relative, a good friend, or a colleague might have some input as to whether you are overreacting or seeing some genuine concerns.

Now, don’t confuse asking for advice with gossiping behind the fake person’s back because, in the end, you don’t want to stoop down to their level. However, a little reminder as to how to stay on your own wellness track can never hurt.

5. Dig Deeper

Now, this one, I offer with caution. If you are emotionally strong, up to it, guaranteed you won’t get sucked into it, and have the skills to manage, perhaps you could dig into the reasons a fake person is acting the way they do.

Have they suffered recent trauma? Have they been rejected all their lives? Is their self-esteem so low that they must resort to making themselves feel good in any way they can? Sometimes, having an understanding of a person’s behavior can help in processing it.

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6. Practice Self-Care!

Clearly, putting some distance between the fake person and yourself is probably the way to go. However, sometimes, it takes time to get there. In the meantime, make sure to practice self-care, be gentle with yourself, and compensate with lots of positives!

Self-care can be as simple as taking a hot shower after talking to them or declining an invitation when you’re not feeling up to the challenge.

Spotting fake people isn’t too hard. They generally glow with wanna-be vibes. However, most often, there are reasons as to why they are like this. Calling their behavior might be the first step. Providing them with support might be the second. But if these don’t work, it’s time to stay away and surround yourself with the positivity that you deserve.

Final Thoughts

Remember that life is a rollercoaster. It has good moments, tough moments, and moments you wouldn’t change for the world. So, look around and make sure that you take the time to choose the right people to share it all with.

We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, so take a good look around and choose wisely!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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