All relationships consist of a cycles of harmony, disharmony and repair; closeness, disruption and a return to closeness.
When your relationship is in a state of disrepair the partner in disrepair needs to be brought into repair. The other partner is the peacemaker.
When your partner comes to you in a state of disrepair, put yourself at their service. This is not a dialogue or conversation. It is a one way street. This is not the time to address your issues. Not at this moment. Once you’re back in a state of repair then there may be space for you.
Apology is a unilateral conversation.
An apology is a functional relationship move that empowers and disarms your partner, enabling them to reconnect with you. The opposite is also true, a dysfunctional relationship move will escalate the disrepair and render your partner more helpless.
There is an art to apologizing well, and it contains two parts:
Listening — Put yourself aside. Be in the experience of your partner, not your own objective experience. Enter into their experience. “I hear you saying…” Continue listening reflectively until your partner is satisfied that you understand.
Responding — Acknowledge whatever you can about what they are saying about you. Non defensively. Rather than scanning for what you disagree with, scan for what you can agree with. No buts. No qualifiers. No explanations. Find something you can acknowledge. Acknowledgement is disarming and will reassure your partner.
Here’s my mentor, Terry Real, explaining deeper (the sound is a bit muffled, so turn your volume up):
More from Terry on Listening and Presence: