We read Why Won’t You Apologize: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts by Harriet Lerner.

The book is about the art and craft of apology and repair when you’ve hurt someone you care about.

Why we chose it

We chose the book to read as it’s inevitable that in a long lasting relationship you will end up hurting each other. We have experienced relationships in which apologies are thrown away without much meaning, or in which “I am sorry” is unheard of. Being able to give a genuine apology for things that matter brings a significant impact to the long-term health of a relationship.

Key takeaways

A good apology can mend a relationship, a bad one can make it worse.

To start with, it is important to understand why each other gives and demands an apology and forgiveness, what they essentially represent for each other.

Being able to let go and move on are often the fundamental reason why people would want to receive an apology. However, they do not necessarily come hand-in-hand. A hurt victim does not need to receive an apology and to forgive in order to leave it behind, recover, and move forward. This last bit is one of the most important takeaways from the book for us.

Actionable advice

  1. Avoid “I am sorry you feel that way”, “I am sorry, but …”, “I am sorry if …”, or any justification for the wrong-doing. These are pseudo apologies which are counter-productive. Sure there are times when we are convinced that it is not completely our fault. However, save this discussion for later on when both parties are no longer in an emotional state.
  2. Give each other time to forgive at his/her own pace. Knowing that we have made a mistake / caused hurt to other people can feel torturous. However, by pushing for premature forgiveness, we are playing victims and are denying the hurt person his/her right for absolution. Forgiveness is a personal decision, not something to be told to do.
  3. 3A true apology is followed by rectification. Saying “I am sorry” without any corrective action does not show sincerity nor accountability. A genuine apology is not just about saying the right words. It is about showing the right attitude.

How we liked it

Fun: 7/10 | Thought-provoking: 7/10 | Actionable: 7/10

For a short 4 hour read, this book lays out a good understanding of how people define “apology” differently, why it represents and why it is important, and put together some practical advice on giving a heartfelt and sincere apology – an important life skill that can make or break long-term relationships.