Usually when someone apologizes to me it's for something so trivial -- or not even their fault -- and I just do the whole, "It's OK, don't worry about it," thing. It seems the people who actually SHOULD apologize, never do.
So anyway, this morning I received an apology and was left speechless. I seriously had no idea how to respond. I just said something like, "OK, well, bye," and hung up the phone. I am not sure I've ever received an apology that was so completely warranted, over something so serious. So serious, in fact, that, "I'm sorry" alone kind of seemed inadequate.
So... what's the proper way to accept an apology?
In a situation like that I suppose I would respond that I appreciated their sincere apology. I might say that I would take their words to heart and it would most likely take time to heal the rift between you.
I don't think you need to say you forgive them or minimize the hurt they caused. I think it is okay to just acknowledge their regret.
Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)
And here's the wisdom of Facebook on the subject:
"Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace."
I am a ruminator and resentment-holder-onner-to. I could use a bit of this myself. ie if no one is hurting me in the moment, letting it go will make the moment better for me.
If you're not willing to accept the apology, or you're afraid the apology has strings attached, say something to that effect. You can say what you wrote here-- "I'm sorry" is inadequate for the seriousness of what happened.
It's a fine line between resentment and righteous anger at being wronged. At almost fifty, I'm finally learning to assess people's behavior in my decisions about how to deal with them rather than wrapping up my energy and happiness in what they did to me. All the insipid advice I've heard throughout my life about letting go made things even worse, until I was able to fine-tune what to release as opposed to what to use in my own behalf.
I think a civil and simple "thank you" is always appropriate. It's an acknowledgement that still gives you room to make up your mind and gives the person apologizing a chance to follow up with action that underscores their sincerity, if they're equal to that.
I've received a few apologies for serious things (mostly high school bullying). I said, "thank you - that means a lot to me" It did. I'm not sure what I would have said if I hadn't already been at a place where I'd let go of my resentment. I'll never forget the way these people treated me, but I was already past holding a grudge when they apologized for it.
Lisa, lucky mama of Kelly (3/93) , Emma (5/03) , Evan (7/05) , & Jenna (6/09)
Loving my amazing dh, James & forever missing Aaron Ambrose (11/07)
i dont know.
however here are some of my thoughts.
-depends on the intentions. if the intention is genuine then its easy to accept. if you cant tell what their intention are - do they really mean it - its so much harder.
i feel one of the worst things the British has taught us after bread and butter is 'i'm sorry. oh i shot the gun and accidently killed your son, i am sorry.
for me - after all these years - lookign at life and trying to live better this is what i have come to the conclusion.
what matters is what "i" say. which means have the courage to speak your truth. so i mostly, if i have the courage, speak the truth. saying please give me a few days to understand what you are saying. you just apologized for <something this big> i dont know how to fathom that. so i am neither accepting or denying your apology - but for sure right now i dont know how to respond to you.
i have found - every. single. time - EVERY SINGLE TIME - i speak genuinely its well taken. UNLESS the person is messed up and not able to 'hear' me. then it was my bad judgement to speak up. HOWEVER sometimes its sooooooo freeing just to say your words whether they were heard or not.
so there is so many layers to it.
however when someone has done something very very big - its sooooo hard to say i'm sorry. it goes beyond sorry. so i tend to see it as someone wanting to make amends. THAT is key. not what words they use. i knew how sorry my ex was that he couldnt stay in the marriage. that he wanted out. but it still hurt and i still became single. but somewhere there was within me - through all the pain - some peace that he got it - before it got hidden under a lot of unpleasantness.
i am lucky i have dd to work on. that she is open to who i am and what i say. so when she says sorry - sometimes i am so not ready to hear it. it doesnt change the fact that i still stubbed my toe and it hurts so bad due to her. once i have had my composure back i tell her hey i know you are sorry. no one does these things purposely. but gosh darn it STILL hurt. i know you really want me to know how sorry you are. its ok. i understand.
I tell my kids they need to acknowledge the apology — to not say something when your sister says, "I'm sorry" is just rude. I give them three answers as jumping off points and then they are welcome to come up with their own if none of the three seems quite right. The three basic answers to "I'm sorry" are:
"It's okay." (if you really are okay with it — like you know your sister didn't mean to step on your toe and it's not broken and doesn't even hurt much now.)
"I'm sorry, too." (if you both were wrong-- fighting or arguing, etc.)
"Thank you." (to acknowledge that the other person had the guts to step up and apologize, but if you don't feel comfortable telling them "it's okay" because it isn't okay that they took your toy/book/shirt/etc and ruined it.)
I then teach them that if they are the one who messed up they need to make amends if (offer a cold pack for a hurt toe, a hug for reconciliation after an argument, buying a new book with your own money for the one you ruined, etc.)
I think it's much the same for adults. If you think the apology was sincere but you're not ready to let everything be "okay" then I think "thank you" acknowledges the act of apology without absolving the person of the wrong.
If you think it was not a sincere apology then I think you can still say a polite thank you and reiterate how the act of wrongdoing made you feel — "Thank you. I really felt blindsided when you talked about me behind my back." You're not letting them off the hook, but are acknowledging that they apologized.
"All you fascists are bound to lose" — Woody Guthrie
Hmm this is a weird situation because I guess it's more in the context of a professional relationship. And it's not so much that I don't forgive this person, just that the whole thing has been very traumatic and I just haven't fully processed it yet. So I guess given what you all said, I responded sort of appropriately? It was so incredibly awkward. I do give this person a lot of credit for offering an apology, and I hope the lesson has been learned and the same mistake won't be made with someone else. Ahh. That's kind of what I wish I said. I am no good at phone conversations!
yeah, but she caught you by surprise. You didn't have a chance to think or process it.
If you want to talk to this person or write them a note, you could. The ball is in your court -- you can finish the conversation (or not) whenever and however you want to.
but everything has pros and cons