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Please Forgive Me!

Please Forgive Me!

How to reestablish any friendship or relationship when you are clearly in the wrong.

by

Imagine you've violated the respect, trust, and rights of another. If you want to "repair the damage," you will have to take concrete steps to restore balance to the other person's psyche.

This is accomplished by employing an easy-to-use strategy, encompassing a 10-phase process designed to help you gain forgiveness and establish peace in any situation... faster than you could ever imagine.

PHASE 1: HUMILITY, EMOTION AND RESPECT

Before you start, you have to approach the situation with the utmost delicacy. You don't want to take any chances because of the serious nature of the situation. So try to follow the strategy exactly as it is laid out.

Have Humility: If you come into the situation with anything other than complete humility, you are a goner. What does this mean? Lose your ego. It's not about you, it's about her.

If you appeal to someone on a strictly logical basis, you will have little chance of making peace.

Be Emotional: It's been clearly established through numerous studies that you need to arouse emotions in your attempt to have her forgive you. Most of our thinking is emotionally based. We then use logic to justify our actions. If you appeal to someone on a strictly logical basis, you will have little chance of making peace. If you have to manufacture emotions, don't bother. If you are not in pain, then you don't really care, so spare both of you from further aggravation and move on.

Show Respect: Respect is at the crux of establishing peace in any situation. This means you should not argue and scream your point, or show up at her office demanding that she listen to your side of the story. It means asking permission before you speak to her and prior to initiating contact if the relationship is severely strained. Understand that it is not about what you did as much as it is about the underlying loss of respect. Approaching the situation with respect is essential to your success.

PHASE 2: TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY

It is important to take full and complete responsibility for your actions. Do not shift blame or assign excuses -- this will only exacerbate the situation. She is expecting that you, to some degree, will try to lay off the blame. Placing the blame elsewhere doesn't help, because then only that other thing or person can restore balance.

If you take responsibility, then you have the power to set things right. Again, balance must be restored to the relationship in order to reestablish peace.

PHASE 3: SINCERELY APOLOGIZE

Next, apologize for your behavior. Sometimes we forget to actually say the words "I'm sorry." While just these words often aren't enough, they are essential to your overall strategy to gain forgiveness.

Make sure that your sincerity comes across. Any apology that is not sincere will not be believed. And if you are not believed, then you will not be forgiven. If you're truly sorry, then you will not do what you've done again and put this person through more pain. But if you don't mean it, don't say it. If you're not truly sorry and remorseful, it might be time to reevaluate the situation, the relationship, and yourself.

PHASE 4: BE WILLING TO ACCEPT AND EVEN OFFER CONSEQUENCES

A very important phase in this process is to let her know that you are willing to face and accept any and all consequences for your actions. What you did showed a lack of trust and responsibility. Putting yourself in her hands and taking responsibility not just for your actions but for the ensuing consequences goes a long way toward establishing the power that she lost.

She wants justice for what you've done. She wants to be able to exercise her sense of importance.

It is one thing to talk the talk, but then things can fall apart if she thinks that you are trying to weasel out without accepting any repercussions. Remember your fate (at least with her) rests in her hands at this point anyway. But freely giving her power, and acknowledging it as hers to determine the fate of the relationship, is extremely important. She wants justice for what you've done. She wants to be able to exercise her sense of importance.

Give her back what you took and you begin to restore balance. You can start by saying something such as, "I know what I did was wrong. You have every right to be angry with me. I'm willing to accept the full consequences of my actions."

PHASE 5: SOLIDIFY IN THE REAL WORLD WITH A SPECIFIC ACTION

Actually making a change in your life will go a long way in letting him know that you are sincere in your convictions. Actions shout, while words whisper.

Explain to him how the set of circumstances that created this event can never happen again. Part of his disturbance over your behavior is the unpredictability of your actions. That is, it's something that happened and could happen again without notice or warning. If you can assure him that the combination of events can never repeat itself, you will help to alleviate much of his anxiety.

If you can assure him that the combination of events can never repeat itself, you will help to alleviate much of his anxiety.

By isolating the event, you minimize its impact on his life as an anomaly, something that he will never have to deal with again. You do this by making a change in your life to show that what you did was wrong AND you are not making the change merely to be forgiven. Whatever caused the catalyst, change the dynamics to prevent or severely minimize the chances of it happening again.

For example, "It will never happen again. I've enrolled in a program for drug addiction." Or "I've told my boss that I won't travel on weekends anymore." Notice we don't say "I will...," because that conveys the message that I'm trading this for that. I'm changing because I want to be forgiven. That doesn't show you've changed, only that you're sorry you got caught.

If you state that the action was taken independently of his agreeing to forgive you, he can readily see that you have changed as a person and are not just trying to do what is necessary to make peace. When you take action irrespective of forgiveness, it shows that you know what you did was wrong and this is not quid pro quo. You can also let others know what you have done in making the new change, so that it can filter back to this person.

PHASE 6: REESTABLISH MUTUAL RESPECT

Do something that shows your true character. Donate money, do charity work, spend time with a sick or elderly person, stand up for someone or for a good cause. Show her what kind of person you really are. She needs to respect you again as a person. She's lost respect for you and she's thinking that you may not be the kind of person she thought you to be.

It is hard to dislike someone for whom we have great respect. Let her see your true nature, so that your transgression is filtered through this better light.

PHASE 7: RESTORE THE SENSE OF BALANCE

It's important to let him know that your actions produced no enjoyment, financial gain, or any type of benefit whatsoever. Since no one can go back in time, you need to explain that not only was it a mistake, it didn't produce the anticipated benefits either.

If you gained in some way, then you will have to give back more in order to set things right.

Remember, the key to forgiveness lies in restoring balance to the relationship -- be it personal or professional. If you gained in some way, then you will have to "give back" more in order to set things right. Never declare any benefits (external rewards) or satisfaction (internal rewards) from your actions. For example, you want to emphasize such truths as, "The experience was lousy," "I never spent any of the stolen money," "I was more miserable and so filled with guilt afterward," and so on.

You have to restore balance any way you can. If you have "it," give it back: money or whatever. If you don't have it but can replace it, do so and make every effort to do so as soon as possible. Let the person know your plan and progress.

And remember, it's important to continue even if he is still not talking to you. It doesn't end your obligation to do what is right and "repay the debt." This will show your true colors. By continuing to do what is right despite not getting what you want -- the relationship back -- you will begin to prove yourself to be the kind of person he wants to be involved with or work with, whatever the case may be.

PHASE 8: ESTABLISH PEACE OF MIND

You have to answer the question, Why? Without getting into a long psychological discussion, every wrong action comes down to the same motivation: fear. Fear is the henchman of -- no surprise -- the ego. If you look at what you did, you will find fear at its root.

You stole money, perhaps, because you were scared that you would be at this job for the rest of your life or couldn't give yourself the lifestyle you wanted; you were disloyal, perhaps, because you feared that you were unattractive or not lovable. The secret to establishing peace is to find this fear at its source, and to amplify it. Stealing money because you like nice things is not as effective a motivation as stealing because you needed to build up a faltering self-image.

Sexual indiscretion, for instance, is not simply an impulse. Fear lurks beneath this action as well. At an unconscious level you may have been thinking, "Is this all there is in life?" Or: "Would anyone want to be with me?" Or even a deeper unconscious fear may be, "Things are going too well. I'm not used to this, so let's see how I can mess it up."

A deeper unconscious fear: Things are going too well. I'm not used to this, so let's see how I can mess it up.

Let's illustrate this idea with a quick look at the phenomenon that we call a midlife crisis. A person goes out and does all those things that he's feared he missed out on or thinks he will miss. He buys a sports car. Fear. He asks, "What happened to my dreams, my youth? I'm scared."

Why doesn't a person commit to marriage? Fear. What if someone better comes along? What if it's a mistake? It all comes back to fear. This is what makes us vulnerable and this is what you need to explore, to understand in yourself. Then you need to relate that fear to the person you've hurt.

Now your actions are seen less as a betrayal that violated trust and more as an irrational act of fear by a confused person. It furthers your vulnerability and helps to restore her feeling of power and dignity. By assuaging your fears, she takes an important and active role in restoring her own sense of control.

Rooting your motivations in fear diminishes her perception of your ego. Simply, fear is a response to feelings of your inadequacy to deal with the situation. This is in stark contrast to braggadocio, and a self-centered mind-set -- one that you do not want to present.

If you are perceived as the one in control, then she is scared and will lash out further. That is why in relationships you rarely find both people jealous of each other. Only one can be. And the other naturally moves to a more comfortable psychological position to strike a balance. Showing fear is readily seen as the shadow of respect. Fear is a sign of recognition of the other person's power and status. It makes her feel empowered and in control.

After amplifying the fear-based motivation, reestablishing your commitment to the other person and to the relationship is essential. This consists simply of a phrase such as, "You know that our marriage means everything to me and I love you more today then I did when we got married." Or: "This job has always been the focus of my life; I planned on working here until I retired" (if you stole from your job).

PHASE 9: INTERNAL JUSTIFICATION

Why put things back the way they were, when you can make the relationship better than it was?

If you can demonstrate how the relationship will be better than it was before the situation, this will be good. Because otherwise, if he agrees to forgive you, he's thinking it's only to go back to a damaged relationship and that may not be worth much anymore. No one wants to give up his lifeboat to go back to a sinking ship. But by showing him what happened and the consequent changes you've made to strengthen your commitment and relationship, he is gaining something much better than what he lost.

We went through all of that to get to this point. Why throw it away? This is the rationale that makes sense and persuades. And this is accomplished by emphasizing how, by eliminating the cause -- the catalyst, as we did in Phase 5 -- you can make things better than they were before your transgression.

PHASE 10: PUT TOGETHER A SPECIFIC, PAINLESS GAME PLAN

It's important to let her know exactly how things will proceed: slowly, easily, and with her at the controls the entire way. She's thinking, If I say "okay," it will be hard for me to break up with him again (or fire him, or whatever). Therefore, you want to offer a game plan that moves slowly but surely toward the objective of reestablishing the relationship. Offer a specific clear-cut course of action for proceeding, making sure that she has the option to, at any time, continue, stop, or change course.

When we are somewhat motivated to take action and move forward, it is essential that we understand the direction and the method for proceeding. It makes us feel comfortable and secure when we know that the path is clearly lit and laid-out. When you want someone to reconcile, you should provide the desired destination but also the map for getting there.

This is an excerpt from David J. Lieberman's new book, "Make Peace With Anyone", published by St. Martin's Press. To order, go to http://www.makepeacewithanyone.com/, or go to your local bookstore.

Published: February 23, 2002


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Visitor Comments: 10

(10) Anonymous, November 26, 2007 6:13 AM

thank you, i will try to use this with my much much bigger problem. God bless you

(9) yvette, February 2, 2007 7:38 AM

What about mother, x's, selfcenter and years of unresolved issue?

See what if I'm not in the wrong but, have been mistreated for years and always feared speaking up to that person but, their family, parant or an x-spouse. How do you get them to appogize or realize why you stay away and avoid confrontation with them. But, now you have regret and guilt.

(8) alex, October 24, 2006 1:09 AM

good

good

(7) Peter B, June 22, 2006 12:00 AM

Thanks for letting me know.....

Thanks for letting me know I was on the right track.... I almost lost someone I love very much... and seeing this artical helped me know that I was taking the right steps... and gave me a more solid plan to see it through... and get the trust back... and work our way to a even better relationship.... thanks

(6) Emily, August 21, 2005 12:00 AM

a weight has been lifted

Thank you for this article. I was able to make peace with my ex-fiance. For a long time after we broke up he had avoided talking to me, but after writing an apology using these guidelines he finally contacted me and have started to heal our relationship. My words cannot express how thankful I am.

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