Have you found yourself in a relationship where you find yourself constantly apologising and feeling like you’re being taken advantage of?
Genuinely expressing sorrow and regret for bad behaviour is one of the most powerful ways to regain trust and build a relationship. But over-apologising, or apologising when you shouldn’t, can turn you into a target of mistreatment.
If you’re in a relationship with someone that believes your intent was bad, but in fact you had good intent, an apology is not the right approach. It’s disingenuous and unhealthy to apologise for your behaviour just to spare another person’s feelings.
Instead, clarify what you intended. Here are three tips:
Share your good intent. Let this person know that you care about them, the conversation, the relationship, and the outcomes.
Contrast to fix misunderstandings. When there is a misunderstanding between what you meant and what they think you meant, contrast to clear things up. Explain what you don’t intend (address their misperception) with what you do intend (clarify what you really want). For example, “I don’t think you’re irresponsible; I am asking for your help with stuff around the house.”
Act in ways that reflect your good intent. I’ve always loved the words of the late Stephen Covey, who proclaimed, “You can’t talk your way out of something you’ve acted your way into.” If you’re going to express your good intent, your behaviour needs to match.
Continue to remind yourself that you can’t control other people’s perception of you; You can only control your own behaviour.