You want to make it right with the other person. So, what could go wrong? Plenty. The good news is you’ve accepted responsibility for doing “the wrong”, whatever that is — lying, cheating, or in some way betraying the other’s trust. This can be your spouse, life/work partner, co-worker, or friend. You want to make it right with the other person and restore trust. What could go wrong? Most of us have experience as the one who wronged as well as the one who has been wronged.
There are 10 common mistakes that people make when asking for forgiveness and attempting to make it right when they have done it wrong. Take a look and learn how to make amends.
Do these mistakes resonate with your experiences?
1. Trying to defend their wrong action.
Sure, you have explanations. And you will be asked to explain. Yet, it’s true that timing is everything when it comes to sharing explanations. It is always safe to wait until asked, otherwise, explanations come across defensive. Another option is to let the other know you’re willing to share whenever they are ready.
2. Trying to point out the other’s mistakes.
Bringing up the other’s past misdeeds is an attempt to minimize the issue that has just blown up between you and the other — that YOU own.
Don’t do it.
3. Trying to avoid talking about it.
It’s natural to want to avoid feeling pain or witnessing the other’s pain. After all, you care and love the other and your feelings of guilt and shame are awful. Avoiding the topic isn’t going to work.
My client resisted setting time aside to respond to his wife’s questions around the affair: “I dread the same questions I’ve already answered.” His avoidance felt like a rejection to her.
Agreeing to take breaks or stopping after an hour of conversation helps. Be prepared to take some psychological hits — grab a pillow to hold or a glass of water. Remind yourself it’s a part of the healing process for both of you. Tolerate the discomfort short-term for longer-term growth.
4. Trying to get the other to forgive and trust them prematurely.
You may be ready to be forgiven but it’s not your decision. Get a hold of your anxiety around this and respect the other’s time frame.
The key is to recognize the other is disoriented and coming to grips with what is going on. If they have just discovered the betrayal (like an affair) it takes a while to put emotions and thoughts together. Trust takes longer to rebuild than forgiveness.
5. Trying to be with the other when the other doesn’t want to be around them.
Please, please respect the distance the other requests. Do not stalk them with phone calls, text, email messages, messenger, or face-to-face contact when you are clearly told to give them space. It’s a good time to work on not making mistake #6.
6. Trying to ignore responsibility by letting go of personal care.
If you are unable to tolerate the discomfort or the anxiety stirred up for you get help from someone else. Make an appointment with a therapist, coach or mentor who can help you look at your situation with objectivity and help you take positive actions.
It isn’t responsible to complicate matters by sleeping less, drinking alcohol more, or indulging in unhealthy eating, neglecting hygiene, or work/personal responsibilities. It’s the perfect time to put more effort into self-care. It makes you more available for the other. Who wants to have a meaningful, personal conversation with someone who is fragile? Be your own best friend.
7. Trying to minimize the feelings — theirs and yours.
It is hard to acknowledge hurting someone you love and care about. It’s hard to watch them hurt.
Don’t tell the other how they should or shouldn’t think and feel. Yes, we do that. We say things like, “You shouldn’t feel that way” or “Don’t say that.” We may disagree and it feels bad. Remember the thoughts and feelings expressed by the other are always valid. Pushing your feelings down increases your vulnerability. Journal or talk with someone about how it feels so your self-control is strengthened.
8. Trying to rush the process.
Your issue with the other is like a book you’re both reading. You’ve finished it and are ready to donate it to Goodwill. The other is getting into the middle of the book and wants you to clarify some passages. My client’s resistance to his wife’s questions and doubts about his commitment to her since the affair has shifted radically. He gets her now. He knows she needs to be reassured. He doesn’t doubt his commitment to her and is showing up as often as she needs.
Facing her own insecurities, she courageously challenges the significance of their marital vows then and now. Difficult conversations for both. It’s pain filled joy. Joy filled pain. Beautiful to witness over time. Be patient and trust, not rush the process.
9. Trying to skip self-forgiveness.
I can tell you for certain you deserve your own kindness and forgiveness. Forgiving yourself can be harder than it seems.
10. Trying to make up without initiating follow-up to check with the other if they are getting what they need.
Simply ask “How are you?” Or say, “I sense you’re still hurting. I’m sorry. I’m here if you want to talk.” Here are three words which broke through the awkwardness between business colleagues: “I’ve missed you.” Conversation flowed. Taking responsibility for wronging someone is the first step towards making the relationship right even stronger. (Yes, that’s a bonus)! The next steps towards righting the wrong by restoring trust may be few or many.
Avoid these 10 mistakes so you can clear the way towards restoring trust and making things not only right–but better.