Arguments with family members, even over seemingly "small" issues, are often accompanied by resentments, history and habitual patterns of communication. Because of this, apologizing to relatives, including your mother, may be much more difficult than apologizing to friends and acquaintances. However, a sincere and intentional apology can be a powerful tool in repairing relationships and changing ineffective family communication styles.
Examine your intention before apologizing. If your apology is not based on a true desire to express your regret and take responsibility for your part in the disagreement, it will not feel meaningful to you, and may cause you to have resentments. It will also feel insincere to your mother.
Verbalize a statement of regret at the start of your apology. In this portion of your amends, you should express your awareness of how you have hurt your mother. As you do this, you also let her know that you regret and are sorry for your impact on her. An example might be, "I am so sorry I hurt your feelings."
Take responsibility for your actions. Do this by clearly and specifically voicing the areas of the argument in which you accept accountability. An example might be, "I am sorry I said you were never there for me. I was trying to hurt you and I know what I said is not true."
Offer a remedy to repair the damage you have caused. The remedy can be as simple as a sincere promise to not repeat the behavior. You should choose a remedy that will be meaningful to your mother and one you are willing to complete and are capable of accomplishing.
- When taking responsibility for your part in an argument, avoid making excuses, pointing out your mother's wrongs or placing blame. If you do, you will essentially negate your words of accountability.
- Forgive yourself and forgive your mother. While guilt may be an impetus, causing you to change your behavior, if you continue to feel shame and remorse, your apology may be more about alleviating your feelings of guilt than improving your mother's feelings. Conversely, if you apologize to your mother, but continue to harbor resentments and anger, you may not be able to truly apologize. You may struggle with why you need to apologize when she has done whatever it is that caused you pain. Even if you don't vocalize these thoughts, your attitude about the apology may be negatively affected.
- If your goal in apologizing is to manipulate your mother, avoid negative outcomes or to prevent truly dealing with the conflict, do not apologize. While you may meet your goals, you will be perpetuating negative family patterns, destroying trust and developing resentments in yourself and/or your mother.
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