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The Six Step Apology (Intro)

MP900316967My stomach hurts just remembering those times in which I’ve blown it.  I shouted. I threatened. I said hurtful things on purpose.  What makes me sick is remembering the fear in their eyes, their embarrassment and hurt, and then the little voice that said, “Dad, please don’t be so barky.”

Parents are people, and people are flawed.  There are times I react in ways that aren’t kind, generous or purposeful.  It is at these moments that waves of shame and guilt wash over me and I want to make things right but I can’t take my words back.  I’ve unleashed a flood that is now doing harm in the minds of those I love the most.

My tendency is to make a quick apology and then try to compensate for the things I said.  While this makes me feel better, I don’t think it helps me or brings restoration to our relationship.  Whether I’m dealing in anger with my wife, kids, or others at work, the reality is that the relationship is harmed and my response to the harm will be the difference between fear and restoration.

Most of us have had a relationship with a Jekyll and Hyde type character which was captured by author Robert Louis Stevenson in 1886.  Kids living in this sort of environment become fearful and cautious, always hoping for the “good” but knowing that “bad” can come at any moment.

When we swing from anger to appeasement it creates an environment in which it is difficult for relationships to exist.

So, knowing that we all make mistakes and do things which hurt the people we love the most,  I’d like to share with you a process I learned from Ford Taylor when I attended his seminar on Transformational Leadership.  It is a process that works in the home, work, and socially.  It tends to be harder with closer relationships and the length of time it takes to complete it may be longer.

Ford calls this the Six Step Apology, and over this series of posts, we’ll walk through each step together.  Here are the steps before we go into more detail:

  1. Acknowledge the offense:  “I did _____.”
  2. Admit, “I was wrong.”
  3. Say the words, “I am sorry.  I apologize.”
  4. Ask, “Will you, when you can, forgive me?”
  5. Humbly offer, “I give you permission to hold me accountable.”
  6. Ask, “Is there anything else I need to apologize for?”

I can tell you that this process is easier on paper than it is looking someone in the eye.  But I can also tell you that there is nothing better than seeing fear replaced with peace.  Knowing that your relationship is moving forward rather than held in limbo.

A question as we get started:  Why do you think it is so hard to apologize to the people that are closest to us?

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