Tag Archive for apology

The Top 6 Components of an Effective Apology

Let’s face it; we all make mistakes. We all do things in and to our families for which we need to apologize. It could be something as simple as forgetting to pick up the milk or as complex forgivenoteas feeling unloved. Whatever it is, an apology is in order. But, not just any apology will do. Research out of Ohio State explored what makes an apology effective. The study’s lead author, Roy Lewicki, completed two studies involving a total of 755 people and found an effective apology consists of six components. In each of the two studies, participants read a scenario that included an apology for a wrong committed. In both studies, the apologies containing more of the six components were considered more effective. At the same time, not all components were equal. Participants considered certain components more important than others.  So, for the top six components of an effective apology:

  • Number six and the least important component is…a request for forgiveness. Not surprising. After all, asking the other person to forgive me means I’m still thinking about myself. So, if one component is left out, this might be the one.
  • Numbers five, four, and three tied for third place in importance. So, the components of forgiveness landing in third place of importance are…expression of regret, an explanation of what went wrong, and a declaration of repentance. These components remain very important but are not enough by themselves. They need more. They’re all talk—expression, explanation, declaration. We need the component deemed number two in importance to move the apology to a new level and make it more effective.
  • Offering a repair. The second most influential component in an apology is offering to fix the wrong, to undo the damage. Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. The offer to repair the wrong moves the apology into the realm of action.
  • And, finally, the number 1 component of an effective apology is…acknowledgement of responsibility. Clearly stating you made a mistake, accepting fault, and taking responsibility is the number one component of an effective apology. Avoid blame. Offer no excuses. Just accept fault and acknowledge responsibility.

These six components of an effective apology could help resolve disagreements in our family. And, thankfully, you can teach these skills to your family. Encourage one another to accept responsibility for wrongs committed. Help one another consider ways to make repairs for wrongs committed, whether committed unintentionally or intentionally. Perhaps the best way to teach these six skills is by example. Model the six components in your own life. Model, model, model…and model again.

4 Tips to Improve Your Marriage from Bob Marley

One of my Facebook friends recently posted a quote by Bob Marley on relationships. He shares four actions that will make our marriages grow and prosper.

  1. Dancing CoupleMake one another laugh AND think. Share fun times together. Joke and play together. This will enhance your relationship. Fun and laughter increase intimacy in marriages; so play some games. Joke. Laugh…a lot. But, don’t forget that serious discussions also increase intimacy. Share your beliefs, values, and opinions with one another. You may disagree. That’s alright. Rather than get upset, refer to #4 in this list. Sharing and discussing these more serious matters also deepens your intimacy. Laugh AND think together.
  2. Admit your mistakes…and then make the necessary change. Apologies are necessary in any marriage. We are not perfect. We will make mistakes. We will unintentionally hurt one another. When you make a mistake, admit it…no matter the circumstance. Apologize—no excuses, just an admission of wrongs done and a simple apology followed by a commitment to change. Then, and this is very important, follow through on the commitment to change.
  3. Hold on tight and share yourself. Commit yourself to the relationship. Emotions may wax and wane. Passions will rise and fall. You will experience good times and bad times in your marriage. However, when you give yourself to your spouse and invest in your marriage, emotions and passions eventually return, bloom, and blossom even more beautiful than the last time. Give your time and energy to making your spouse joyful. Hold on tight through the hard times and enjoy the ride. Your marriage will thank you!
  4. Accept your spouse. Don’t try to change your spouse. Don’t expect more than your spouse can give. Just accept them in all their uniqueness. Cherish their idiosyncrasies. Love them for who they are—the person you fell in love with.

These are 4 wise actions to nurture your marriage. In the words of Bob Marley:

“He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him and give him the most you can. He isn’t going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect more than he can give. Don’t analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don’t exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you.”

The Power of Sorry

forgivenote“Sorry” is an important word for a strong family. We all make mistakes. We all say and do things, accidentally or intentionally, that hurt other family members from time to time. Sorry helps bring restoration. I came across a quote that offers a tremendous summary of saying “sorry.” It not only shows how saying sorry leaves us vulnerable, but how it repairs and restores relationship. It elevates “sorry” to its proper place as a precious gift of healing. Hope you like the quote.



Sorry means you feel the pulse of other people’s pain as well as your own, and saying it means you take a share of it. And so it binds us together, makes us trodden and sodden as one another.

Sorry is a lot of things. It’s a hole refilled. A debt repaid.

Sorry is the wake of misdeed. It’s the crippling ripple of consequence.

Sorry is sadness, just as knowing is sadness.

Sorry is sometimes self-pity.

But Sorry, really, is not about you. It’s theirs to take or leave.

Sorry means you leave yourself open, to embrace or to ridicule or to revenge.

Sorry is a question that begs forgiveness, because the metronome of a good heart won’t settle until things are set right and true.

Sorry doesn’t take things back, but it pushes things forward. It bridges the gap.

Sorry is a sacrament. It’s an offering. A gift.” ― Craig Silvey, Jasper Jones

Practice saying “sorry” as often as needed with your spouse, your children, and your parents. Your family will grow stronger and more intimate each time you accept the responsibility of “sorry.”

Hard Words for a Strong Family Bond

Some things are difficult to say. They leave us vulnerable and at the mercy of the other person. These same phrases, however, are often the statements most necessary to preserve and strengthen our relationships with our spouses, children, and parents.  These difficult statements are actually treasures of the heart that we protect with great caution. Let me share some of these treasures—difficult statements that can strengthen your family relationships even though we struggle to give them voice. Practice them as often as needed.hearts in the sand

  • I’m sorry.
  • You were right.
  • I was wrong.
  • I need your help.
  • I don’t know.
  • Will you forgive me?
  • I’m hurt.
  • I deserve what I get because I really messed up.
  • I’m letting this go. (And then really doing it.)
  • I’m scared.
  • I forgive you.
  • Good-bye. (i.e., to a family member leaving for college.)
  • I do. (As in “who gives this woman to be married?” “I do.”)


Let me end with a quote from Stephen King that describes difficult words to say…and the need to state them.

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them—words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.” –Stephen King

The Hardest Word–A Testimony

I agree with Elton John when he sings, “Oh it seems to me that sorry seems to be the hardest word.” Still, I have to say it. My actions and words have driven a wedge between my forgivenotewife and me. I have torn at the fabric of our relationship. I acted inappropriately. No, that sounds like a therapist. I was just plain wrong. I yelled for no reason. I hurt her with a harsh tone and angry words. I was wrong. I have to tell her I’m sorry.  So, why is it so hard to apologize, anyway? Nobody likes to admit they were wrong, especially me. And, apologizing makes me feel so vulnerable. But, I have to take responsibility for my offense.


Where is she? There she is, in the living room. I hope she accepts my apology. Our relationship rests in her hands, the hands of the one I hurt…and still love. That’s the point. I really want a relationship with her. I hope my actions have not damaged our relationship. There is only one way to find out…apologize. I sit down on a chair near her. I know that my apology will open the door for her to tell me the depth of pain I caused.  I hate that I hurt her.


“Ummm,” I hesitate…eyes to the ground. “I’m sorry I yelled. I was wrong. I should not have said the things I said.” I want to add a “but you” or “If you wouldn’t have.” I want to defend my action, justify it in response to what she did. But I’m not going to. Benjamin Franklin was right, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” Besides, I was wrong…regardless of any excuse or rational, I was wrong. I have to acknowledge that. “I feel bad. I don’t want to hurt you.” There, I said it…. And, it’s true. I do feel bad. I am sorry. I was wrong. I slowly look up at my wife. “Next time I won’t yell. I’ll take a deep breath or something and think before I yell.” What else could I do different. I know…”And, if I think I might yell, I’ll take a time out or something.”


For the first time, a small smile begins to form on my wife’s face. “Will you sit in the time out chair?” She was referring to the miniature chair we had seen the “Super Nanny” use the other night. She chuckled. “I’m just joking,” she said. “But maybe it would be better to take a break for a few minutes when we get that way.”


It is good to see her smile. “You’re right. I’ll do that. And I’ll look at those crazy repair statements for something to say.” We both laugh a little as I walk toward her. I hold out my hand and she takes it in hers. I help her to her feet as we embrace one another. “I really am sorry,” I repeat.


“Me too,” she replies. “I’ll try to not ask so many questions when you’re upset.”


She does understand! “Thank you. I love you.”


A sincere apology strengthens relationship and restores trust. It communicates how much you value the other person and our relationship with them. By apologizing we also accept responsibility for our actions…no excuses, no defending, no blaming. We simply accept responsibility for our actions and our words; we take the log out of our own eye. Doing so opens the door for change. Sorry may be the hardest word to say, but it communicates and restores respect, dignity, and love to the relationship.

Welcome to the Family Games

We love to watch competitions—to see our favorite athlete in the Super Bowl, the Olympics, Lively family playing tug of warthe World Series, the World Cup, or any number of various competitions. Many of us also love to compete. Competition hones our skills and motivates us to improve. Why not use that competitive spirit for good in your home?  Let the power of competition motivate your family to reach new heights of intimacy, fun, and camaraderie. Maybe some of these family competitions will help your family hone skills that will strengthen your family.

  • The Race of Apologize. We all do things from time to time that hurt members of our family. But, you can be the first to apologize for the hurt you cause. Cross the finish line to apologize first and win the joy of restored relationships. Take a victory lap and enjoy the newfound freedom of knowing you took the monkey of guilt off your back and opened the door to deeper intimacy when you apologized for the hurt your cause.
  • Score a Compliment. I can hear the announcer now… “He takes a step toward the table and looks at the food. He smiles. He shoots…a compliment;” or, “Wow that compliment was the perfect shot;” or, “He sees his wife’s look of confusion. She doesn’t understand his compliment. Look at that—he recovers and compliments again.” Imagine a simple comment like “Supper really smells good” followed by the announcer—“What a shot, straight to the net. His kids nod in agreement. His wife’s eyes sparkle and her smile grows. And, he scores!” That’s how to score a compliment. Keep track one day to see who offers the most or greatest number of sincere complements over the course of day…shoot and score!
  • The Kindness Swish. Acts of kindness will surely score you points in the family games. Most acts of kindness are shot from the 3-point line: hold the door—3 pointer, give a backrub—3 pointer, give a hug—3 pointer, do the dishes—3 pointer, throw in a load of laundry—3 pointer, bring home some flowers—3 pointer…the list goes on. As you can see, The Kindness Swish is a high scoring game. Points add up quickly and relationships grow exponentially!
  • Politeness Polo. We do not play politeness polo as much as we used to; but, it is a fast-paced family game filled with anticipation and action. In this family game you score big points by “hitting it with politeness.” You know, statements like “Thank you,” “Please,” “Excuse me,” “Sorry,” “My pleasure,” “You’re welcome,” and “Let me help you” become big scoring runs. This is a fast paced game with family members having the potential for scoring as many five to ten times in a matter of minutes.  Imagine the scoring sequence (scoring is capitalized): “Will you take out the garbage, Kids on Victory PodiumPLEASE?” “MY PLEASURE.” “THANK YOU.” “YOU’RE WELCOME.” We have four scores in mere seconds! Imagine the score over the course of a day!
  • Out of the Park. This game is a hard hitting game of grace. Showing grace will “hit it out of the park.” You can show grace by giving your spouse, your kids, or your parents a gift with no expectation of anything in return. To become a really good player of Out of the Park demands sacrifice, but the benefits are worth it! Hit it out of the park by doing someone else’s chore for them, giving up the last cookie, letting someone else sit in your favorite seat, giving up your free time to help another family member with some task, giving up your right for an apology to apologize first, giving up your choice of movie and going to one your wife likes…with no strings attached. You get the idea, give up your desire and fulfill another family member’s desire to “hit it out of the park,” a grand slam over center field!


Try these games out. They are easy, fun, and add joyous intimacy to family life. Maybe you have some other family game ideas. Please share them with us…we’d love to play. Now, let the family games begin!

One Powerful Discipline Tool

Parents who discipline effectively have many parenting tools. For instance, most parents utilize rewards and consequences to teach appropriate behavior. “The Super Nanny” loves to teach families to make effective use of “time-out” and consistent routine’s to elicit positive behavior from children. I’m sure many of you can name several other tools that you have used in your parenting journey. I want to add yet another tool to our parenting toolkit; after all, the more tools we have the better work we can parent. The tool I want to add to our parenting toolkit is: (drum roll please)…the mirror!

What’s that you say? The mirror? Yes. When our children misbehave we can often gain important clues about their misbehavior by looking in the mirror. Children learn many of their behaviors from us, their parents. They imitate our positive behaviors and our negative behaviors. They even learn from our subtle behaviors, those we engage in without even realizing what we did. In fact, children often seem to pick up on our worst behaviors quickly and accurately. Who hasn’t had the experience of a toddler, at the worst possible moment, blurting out some phrase she heard her parent energetically say in a moment of frustration? Not only do children pick up and imitate our rash behaviors and subtle character flaws, they practice them as children, without adult constraint. The unfortunate truth we have to face as parents is: many times, the behavior we see in our children is a reflection of our own behavior. Watching our children’s behavior is like looking in a mirror. So,

     ·    If your children seem ungrateful, check your own level of gratitude

·    If your children seem irritable, check out your own display of irritability and frustration

·    If your children seem oppositional, consider how well you accept the influence of others in your life and how you respond to other’s requests

·    If your children talk back and have a “smart” attitude, consider how you talk to and about others

 If you discover that your children’s behavior is a reflection of your own, take these two actions:

     1.    Change your behavior. Confirm the values for which you want to be remembered. Begin to act and speak in a way that will truly reflect those values in your life.

2.   Apologize to your children. Apologize for setting a bad example. Let them know you are changing your behavior. Tell them why you have decided to change. And, let them know you would like them to change with you.

The mirror is a challenging, yet powerful, tool to use in discipline.  It can change your life and your children’s lives for the better. Use it wisely…use it carefully…and use it often.

What A Week!

Ever have one of those weeks in which everything frustrates you? I have…just last week in fact. I was a little frustrated and irritable (alright, my family would say very irritable) all week. It was a busy week with multiple changes and transitions. “Nothing” seemed to go right. “Everything” (and I mean “everything”) frustrated me. “Everything” I did went from “bad to worse.” I just knew that “it would never get any better” and “everything I do always ends in disaster.” I was stressed, short-tempered with my family, and not a lot of fun to be around. I felt disconnected from my family. I realized I needed to make a change to get back on track, to reconnect. But how? Well, here are some actions I found helpful. Maybe you will find them helpful, too.
     ·         Take a break. I know it’s busy. There is never enough time to get everything done. However, if you get caught up in the busy-ness of life you may forget to rest; and, you may disconnect from those things in life that are most important, like family. You will grow increasingly irritated and disconnected. So, take a break. Put your work aside for an evening or a day and relax. Do something fun with your family. Or, just relax at home with a good book.

·         Check Your Thought Life. Think about how you are thinking. Listen to the dialogue in your head. Notice the words in the first paragraph that are in quotes? When you find yourself thinking in terms of “everything,” “always,” or other global absolutes, it’s time to take stock of your thoughts and make the effort to change those thoughts. Consider whether the evidence supports your thoughts (it probably does not). Rewrite your inner dialogue with some more accurate and realistic thinking, thinking that reflects the fact that problems arise and then you deal with them. Change your thinking to acknowledge the support you receive from family and friends. Challenge yourself to reestablish thoughts that keep a mole hill a mole hill rather than letting thoughts that turn a mole hill into a mountain run amuck in your mind.

·         Apologize. You may need to apologize to your family for how you behaved or spoke. Apologize for your irritability. Do not make excuses or blame your family for your mood. Simply apologize for your actions. After apologizing, acknowledge your need for support…which reminds me of the next action.

·         Ask for Help. Life can be difficult and even overwhelming. Turn to your family and ask for help. Explain your feelings and mood to your family. Let them in on your emotional life. They can’t help you if they don’t know what’s going on. So, if there are ways they can help, ask. Then, thank them for helping.
That can help you break out of that mood. I know it helps me. But, what if you are a family member of the person having a rough day? Family members can help by continuing to act in love. Sometimes it is hard to love the person who snaps at you in their irritability or mutters in frustration. But, the love of family can help cheer an irritable person up. Love with your words and actions. Here are some ways to show your love to the irritable family member.
     ·         Be Patient. I know it can be difficult, but patiently bear with their bad mood. Of course, you can set boundaries and limits that fit within your family values but love “bears all things.” A person may need some space in order to get past their frustration. Family may help by patiently allowing for that space.

·         Be available. Remaining available includes offering a listening ear, giving a hug, rubbing a back, or sitting quietly in the same room… anything that shows your genuine concern and love. Let your family member know you are available through your words and your actions. Let them know that you are willing to help in any way reasonable.

·         Be Kind. Along with remaining available, show your love and consideration through acts of kindness. Do a chore around the house that your frustrated family member would normally do. Take extra time to sit with them. Prepare a special treat for them. Sometimes kindness may mean leaving them alone and giving them space.

·         Finally, Don’t Keep a Record of Wrongs. Everyone has bad days. We have all had times of irritability. When a loved one goes through a period of irritability and then returns to their “normal self,” don’t hold it against them. Do not keep a record of their wrongs. When they apologize, be gracious to accept that apology. And, discuss what they think would help them if (or when) they experience their next period of frustration and irritability. Perhaps above all, remember that “love covers a multitude of sins.”
I found these suggestions very helpful this last week. I hope you find them helpful as well.

Stop Apologizing & Bear Fruit

Have you ever apologized and felt like it didn’t help? I have. In fact, I think it does no good to keep on apologizing over and over again, especially when you know what you did was wrong… especially when you know you need to apologize. Perhaps you missed your child’s game because you took a nap and didn’t wake up; or, you forgot to bring home the milk you promised to pick up. Whatever it was, you apologized but things just kept getting worse. You may have found yourself asking, “What do they want from me? I said I was sorry!” Let me offer a suggestion. In order to strengthen your apology and reconcile the relationship, you need to stop apologizing and “bear the fruit of repentance.” You need to show that the apology is more than just words; it’s a heartfelt desire to make a change. How can you assure your family that you are bearing the fruit of change? Let them smell the aroma of your apology and taste the sweetness of the fruit of your repentance. Here’s how:
     ·         Acknowledge what you did was wrong and that it had an impact on the whole family. Recognize that your family members had to compensate for your wrong actions. Recognize the work they did, and continue to do, to make up for your mistake or wrongdoing. Thank your spouse for being available to take your children to their activities when you chose to watch TV. Thank your children for “picking up the slack” left by your wrongdoing. Acknowledge that your actions resulted in the family having to do more work. Admire the work they did and appreciate how well they did it.

·         Change your behavior. I realize this takes effort and you may not reach perfection overnight; but, put in a genuine effort to change. As part of your apology, identify an alternative behavior that you will strive to achieve and describe that behavior to your family. Develop a plan to help you move toward the “new and improved behavior.” Seriously, sit down with your family members and develop steps that will help you engage in the new behavior. Be diligent in working to change your behavior.

·         Reveal your commitment to change by participating in family talks, walks, and activities. Become an integral part of the family. Commit to learning about the interests and needs of other family members. Make it just as important in your life to know your family’s interests and needs as it is to know your own. Participate in your family by generously giving them your time and energy.

·         Giving generously to your family will demand some sacrifice on your part. You might have to sacrifice some of “your personal time.” You might need to sacrifice some of the energy you invest in “your thing” so you have more energy to invest in your family. I’m not saying you have to give up everything you like; but, set some limits around your own interests so you can invest more in your family. Doing this will inform your family that they are more important to you than anything else.
The diligence with which you perform these four tasks will give your family a taste of the true flavor of your apology. The joy with which you perform these tasks will let them know if the fruit of your apology is ripe and ready for enjoyment or rotten and ready for the trash. As you commit to these tasks on a daily basis, you will find that you also enjoy the juicy fruit of repentance. After all, the fruit of a sincere apology will fill the whole family with the sweet taste of intimacy, joy, and pleasure. So, stop apologizing and bear some fruit.

The End of the Family Argument

I had one of those conversations yesterday. You know what I mean…one that ends in an argument and, when all is said and done, you’re not real sure what the fight was about. Half way into yesterday’s argument I thought, “We agree. Why are we fighting?” Even so, I continued to stress my point and my daughter continued to stress her point. I felt like the mother and daughter in this cell-phone commercial (click here to view) arguing with harsh statements of love. We both walked away frustrated and angry. Other than that, we accomplished nothing. It did make me think though…. How does this happen? And, more importantly, how can I prevent it from happening again?
First (and perhaps the hardest for me to learn), to prevent this from happening again I need to learn how to shut up and listen. We often get into these arguments when one of us believes he has something more important to say than the other person. If you find “yourself repeating yourself” time and time again, perhaps you are in this position. Step back, shut up, and listen…even if you have information of great importance and significance, “shut the mouth and open the ears.” Listen, don’t talk. Listening is the key. Listen to understand what the other person means. Repeat what you believe they mean to make sure you understand. Don’t even think about responding until the other person knows you understand them.
Second, look at the other person. I don’t mean to simply look in their direction. Slow down, soften your gaze, and really see them. What expression is on their face? Do they look angry, frustrated, tired, confused, thoughtful, sad, or hurt? Take time to see their expression. Let that expression sink in. Allow yourself to empathize, to feel their emotion. Respond to that emotion. Apologize if they look angry. Offer comfort if they look hurt. Assure them that you did not intend to arouse negative emotion in them. Gottman calls such statements “repair statements” because they go a long way in repairing the conversation and the relationship. Slow down, look at the other person and gently respond to what you see.
Third, apologize when you mess up. Let’s face it, we all have moments when we end up arguing for no good reason. Maybe you felt a need to save face or prove the other person wrong. Or, maybe you felt so passionate about the topic that you quit listening and said something you feel now regret. Accept responsibility for your actions. Take the time to apologize. Doing so communicates how much you value the other person and your relationship with them. In addition, it moves you one step closer to avoiding the same mistake the next time.
Come to think of it, this all started with me trying to prove my point (a very important point, I might add) to my daughter.  I think I’ll go apologize now and find out what she was really trying to say. Happy talking!
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