Dr. Jennifer Thomas is an author, speaker, psychologist and blogger who provides tips on what to say when your relationship hits a snag. In her book When Sorry Isn’t Enough: Making Things Right with Those You Love, she and Gary Chapman share new ways to effectively approach and mend fractured relationships. They help you offer apologies that are fully accepted, rekindle love that has been dimmed by pain, restore and strengthen valuable relationships, and trade in tired excuses for honesty, trust, and joy.
Has a friend sent you a critical message? I call those “email bombs” or “text bombs.” That’s not a fun way to start the day. Is your sweetheart giving you the cold shoulder? I can relate to it all.
Ten years ago, my husband and I had an argument. It was a run of the mill spat, but the timing of the argument was rather embarrassing. You see, we were going to lead a seminar for young couples the following day. What was our lecture topic? Conflict resolution. As they say, “timing is everything,” so we had some fresh material for our class.
That day, I was largely at fault and so I said, “I’m sorry” about my careless mistake. My husband is usually pretty easygoing, but he was untouched by my apology. What it lacked in elegance, I thought it made up in simplicity. Not so, in my husband’s mind. “Sorry” was definitely not enough for him that day.
Since J.T. was still irritated with me, we tried to talk it over. I asked him what was wrong and he said it was just that he wished I would apologize. I thought, “What? I did apologize!” Normally, I might have gotten ornery but on this particular day, my counseling skills kicked in and I became curious.
I replied, “I said I was sorry…. what were you looking for?” Now take a second, please, and imagine what he might have been waiting to hear in my apology….Can you guess what he said? He knew right away what he was waiting to hear: That I was wrong.
Because I knew that I was at fault, I quickly offered a revised apology that included my wrongdoing. The result? A happy evening in which I was out of the “dog house.”
In writing our new book, When Sorry Isn’t Enough (co-authored by Gary Chapman), we found that my experience is common. Have you ever delivered an apology that was not received? Do you know the pain of being rejected by a loved one?
I’ve been there myself. Once, I was rejected by a close friend who twisted my words and used them against me. I cried off and on for days. I also grew in my faith. This verse spoke directly to the sadness and betrayal that cut me like a knife:
12 It is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
13 But it is you, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
14 We used to hold sweet converse together;
within God’s house we walked in fellowship.
– Psalm 55, Revised Standard Version
After seven long years, my friend and I had a sweet reconciliation.
I advise people all the time about what they can do to make things right with others. I tell them, “When you know you’ve offended someone, you should act with urgency to repair the problem. Spell out what you have done wrong, how this has “put out” the other person, show concern for them, and explain what will truly be different next time.”
In order to give the most successful apologies, you should ask the people close to you what they most like to hear in an apology. After you learn the apology languages of your friends and family members, your apologies will have focus. These apologies will hit their mark and cool down heated arguments.
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