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A local counselling expert shares tips on how to mend broken relationships, starting with a sincere apology. 

"We all make mistakes and some of us find it easier to mend fences than others," says a counsellor at Recovery of Hope, Wayne Friesen. "Over the past two-plus years, there have been so many places for relationships to get interrupted and ruptured. Trying to find our way back together is never easy and it takes more than just the right temperament, it also takes the proper approach and some skill."

It’s not easy to apologize, but when it's done properly, it can move the relationship back in the direction of connection, according to Friesen.

"We all know that apologizing is part of almost every relationship, but how do we do it properly? Maybe a good place to start is what are not good apologies. The first is the four-second apology. It’s kind of like a hit and run. 'Yeah, well sorry about that. So what’s for dinner?' The minimizing apology briefly acknowledges something happened but down plays it. 'So, maybe I did do that, but…' The forced apology sounds exactly as the name implies. 'I guess what you want me to say is…' And the instrumental apology sounds like, 'Well nothing else is going to happen until I say this, so…' All these token apologies have the same things in common. They are dismissive and they don’t venture into any vulnerable territory which is essential if we want repair."

Being vulnerable is an essential part of good apologies.

"Without vulnerability, we can’t have empathy, that is to see and feel how our actions or inactions have negatively affected someone else. So the first step in a good apology is to show we genuinely care that we’ve negatively impacted a person. We don’t dismiss, argue the details, or downplay. And the next step is that we legitimize the person’s feelings. Maybe they're angry, sad or disappointed. It’s important to not move away from that but to affirm the present emotions. This is hard because we are standing in the face of pain that we have had a hand in inflicting, but anything less will downgrade the quality of the apology."

The second step can be just as hard, but it's crucial to build a bridge of connection. 

"When apologizing, after we genuinely show that we care about the impact we’ve had and legitimize the feelings they’re having we own up to the fact that what we did was painful. That’s not easy, but it’s important. We don’t try to dodge it or downplay it, but we stand in it. Step four is that we own the shame and remorse of what’s happened. 'I don’t want to admit it, but I really let you down when…' Some care needs to be taken that we don’t turn to shame too hard b/c then it becomes about our mistake versus the pain that we caused. This is just as disconnecting as dismissing what we did. Remember, a good apology is keeping the other person in focus and keeping ourselves at the perimeter."

Apologizing is hard but if a person wants to get back to the closeness that they enjoyed before there was disconnection, authentic apologies are essential. They are an excellent tool to repair the hurt a person inflicted and to get back to the closeness they enjoyed that makes relationships rich.