Sibling squabbles happen, but sometimes arguments get heated and tempers flare. If you've gotten carried away in anger and done something to hurt your sibling, you're probably feeling a mass amount of shame and guilt. Now that the dust has settled, offer a genuine apology for the pain you caused and endeavor to repair the relationship -- and keep the temper in check in the future.
While it’s important to make an apology quickly before resentment has an opportunity to grow, take a little time before you approach your sibling to consider what has transpired. Think about the events that led to your hurtful words or actions and how you might have handled the situation better. Is there an underlying conflict between the two of you that provoked an uncalled-for response? Has sibling rivalry continued to plague your relationship into adulthood? A parent, partner or close friend can be helpful in sorting out your own emotions if you’re feeling conflicted. When you’re confident you understand what’s going on, figure out what you’d like to say to your sibling to convey your remorse.
Invite your sibling over for an intimate get-together to make your apology rather than making it a public spectacle, says Kevin Grigsby, DSW, in "The Fine Art of Apology: When, Why, and How to Say 'I'm Sorry.' " Because of the intimate sibling relationship, avoid apologizing by email or letter, too -- a very impersonal method of communication. Begin by acknowledging how your comments or actions hurt him and then bite your tongue when the urge to justify yourself rises to the surface. There should be no “if” or “but” statements in a sincere apology, because it means you’re not taking full responsibility for your actions, advises clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst Joseph Burgo in "The Art of the Apology." For example, “I’m sorry if you think my outburst was unwarranted, but you provoked me,” removes the blame from you and places it equally on your sibling.
Once you’ve said your peace, give your sibling an opportunity to express her thoughts and feelings with you, advises Grigsby. While you might not relish everything she has to say, avoid being judgmental and don't respond defensively to her comments. Instead, think of her feedback as an opportunity to see your behavior from another's perspective and focus on self-improvement. Employ your best listening skills and rephrase some of her statements back to her to demonstrate that you are paying attention and you do understand what she is trying to express.
Saying “I’m sorry” doesn’t instantly make the situation go away. Once you’ve made your apology and given your sibling an opportunity to share how he feels, be prepared to leave the subject alone for a while. It takes time for feelings of hurt and anger to dissipate and for forgiveness to take over. You should never present an apology with an expectation that it be accepted. Instead, give your sibling time to process your response and determine how he would like to proceed from here, recommends Burgo.
Talk to your sibling about underlying rivalry issues. If you feel he has always been the favorite, you might be more likely to lash out -- requiring more apologies in the future. Seek out external help to deal with sibling rivalry if feuds, spats and other negativity continue to mar the relationship. Propose the idea to your sibling, explaining that you would like to improve your relationship, but if your sibling won't attend counseling with you, make an appointment on your own for the opportunity to discuss the issues you're experiencing and move forward to a healthier relationship.
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