I have apologized often in my life but don’t remember a time when my apology was not accepted. This is what happened to a friend of mine who shared that although she had apologized to her sister over a year ago for a misunderstanding, her sister was still harboring resentments and revealed she never accepted the apology.

apology-not-acceptedWithout giving all the details, suffice it to say that the problem between them arose from a childhood incident that was brought up recently when the sisters were with mutual friends. My friend was telling the story from her point-of-view and had no idea that doing so would have angered her sister. After all, my friend was talking about her own feelings about the situation so what could be the big deal! What she found out was this: “My sister was angry because I apparently didn’t see anything wrong with talking about an incident that she felt portrayed her in such a bad light in a public setting.” As much as my friend wanted to convince her sister that it was never her intention to point fingers, she allowed her love for her sister to guide her and decided on another approach. She chose to apply one of the distinctions of The Freedom Zone inquiry that she and I had talked about in the past—Clear Communication.

Clear Communication is our willingness to say and own what is true for us without needing to be right, taking things personally, expecting others to read our minds and to truly hear what another is saying.
By bringing Clear Communication to the situation, my friend gave up her need to be right and asked her sister what it was like for her and how she had been impacted by the incident. When they finished talking, my friend understood and learned that her sister did not remember the apology because her anger had gotten in the way. This time when my friend apologized, her sister could actually hear it and feel it. Apology accepted! And now, the two feel closer than ever.

In a nutshell, here are the steps that resulted in a sense of Freedom in their relationship:

Be willing to release our need to be right.
Listen to the other person’s point-of-view without defending.
Acknowledge the feelings of the person.
Apologize again … authentically.
Is there an important relationship in your life that you could benefit from some Clear Communication?