Ever consider how a conflict between two people seems to rest on two bookends? Something triggers the conversation and something else ends it, and the end can be disastrous if not anchored in the desire to better connect and understand the other person.
A premature apology is a sign to the other that the discussion is over, anything said after this is or should be seen in view of the apology and not the initial need that started the dialogue. Nearly every conflict has a hidden desire or wish. I’ve said previously that complaining is just a cleverly disguised need. When couples rush to apologize, it becomes even more challenging to identify and seek to address the need that prompted the argument in the first place.
Whether the intention is to solve the problem or ease the anguish, couples can jump to apologies far too soon.
P R A C T I C E
Try this the next time you encounter a conflict/disagreement/argument with your partner,
1. Notice your impulse to apologize.
2. PRESS PAUSE.
3. Empathize with your partner’s experience.
“I can see how that could make you feel frustrated/unheard/uncomfortable/etc”
“That would really make me mad too”
“You just said you’re sad - I can see it in your face and it makes sense how you’d feel that way.”
4. Seek to understand better.
“Can you tell me more about this?”
“I don’t think I understand completely, can you walk me through it again?”
“How do you think this is affecting the rest of your life right now?”
5. THEN, and only once you both feel heard and understood, apologize using the information you gained from #3 and #4.
Apologizing too soon steals away the opportunity to connect better and more intimately with your partner. It closes the dialogue from moving toward any real solution. So, if you’re feeling every argument you experience with your partner is a conflict you’ve already had multiple times in the past, it could be because you are apologizing prematurely.
Notice, press pause, empathize, understand, and THEN apologize.