Blog

The 21-word, 5 stage apology that will simplify your life.

Someone recently asked me what the best qualities were to look for in a potential partner. How do you know that when the chemistry wanes (9 to 15 months after you first hook up), that this person is worth the time to invest in a potential relationship? What should you really look for in a person you want to spend your intimate life with?
When you read some of the women’s magazines there is often a check list ranging from being a good provider to owning a toolbelt. For the men I speak to in my therapy sessions, most are “looking for a kind, friendly, sane woman who likes sex, and isn’t boring.”

When I ask groups at large about the best qualities I get responses like; “being great in bed, having an amazing body, Intelligent conversation, sense of humour, drive to achieve things, or great hygiene”. Although those things are important, (sometimes very important), I think self-awareness and a willingness to shift is the number one quality for a potential partner to have.

What I mean by self-awareness is the emotional faculty to see where you are wrong and do something about it. What I do know about relationships after 25 years as a shrink is that if you don’t own your share of a problem and sweep things under the rug you are destined to keep making the same mistake repeatedly.

Everyone screws up. It’s taking responsibility for your behavior and owning your share that gives you the ability to weather life’s challenges as a couple. An unqualified apology and a real desire to fix things is what I try and help clients understand during therapy. Things change. And life is sometimes hard. Being able to reflect and manage your mood is what makes us grown-ups.

The challenge comes if your reality doesn’t see your behavior as out of line. That takes some reflection, someone to bounce things off, and understanding patterns in your previous relationships. If it happened once it could be a personality conflict, if it happens more than once look at who is the common denominator.
It’s easy to wish problems away. It’s harder to know that sometimes your responses aren’t getting you the results that you are looking for.

One of the main tools I suggest using in therapy is an unqualified 5 stage apology. If you get a real, genuine apology and not a deflection then the other person has two choices as to how to respond. To forgive you or to throw you under the bus. A five-stage apology looks like this.

1. Clear regret
2. Understanding how your actions has hurt the other person
3. Making a plan so that it won’t happen again
4. Offering restitution
5. Saying the words.

It’s hard to remember all of that. My brilliant husband teaches how muscle memory practice helps you respond rather than react when you are trying to remember something important. I’ve got the 5 stage apology down to 21 simple words.

Here it is:
I’m sorry. I was wrong. (or moron, idiot, dick etc.) I know I hurt you. It won’t happen again. What can I do to fix this?

It allows you to move forward and come up with a solution. It gives you a starting point to fix ongoing issues. It doesn’t change personality issues or have people become something they are not. But it does allow you to move on core issues in relationships. And that’s worth apologizing for.