In a perfect world, none of us would make a mistake and no one would have to ask for forgiveness. But what an unfortunate world of robotic people, driven by artificial intelligence, would that be!
In our real world, mistakes are the norm and the viability of forgiveness is the social yardstick. Forgiveness is difficult if the offender does not feel or express that they have caused any damage and does not show they are apologetic. Only a few people have the desire or strength to forgive us without our having to ask.
The first rule is to humbly ask them to forgive you. Don’t expect forgiveness if you don’t ask for it with humility.
Forgiveness can’t be forced, but something to be humbly asked for.
Even if a person is gracious enough to forgive us without asking, they may do so with sadness in their heart. They forgive us, but they also suffer a great deal of unspoken pain every time our past actions trigger their memory.
How to get someone to forgive you?
Guilt is good. It prompts us to mend our ways and ask for apologies.
People who don’t feel guilty are often social skunks. Scientists tell us that guilt and shame are negatively associated with narcissistic people, particularly the grandiose subtype (Czarna, 2014). It means, the more narcissistic they are, the less guilty they feel.
The good thing is, most of us understand when our mistakes have caused deep emotional distress. When we hurt people we care about, the guilt makes us feel terrible, so we want to apologize. We feel we can’t move on until we know we’ve said “I’m sorry” to the people we’ve hurt.
It is often difficult to make someone forgive you for your grave mistakes, but it is not entirely impossible. It could take time, but we could get it done with a little effort.
Here are some ways you could make someone forgive you:
1. Showing Empathy
Showing empathy can help people forgive and let go of their anger easier.
Empathy is the understanding of how they are feeling after our wrongdoing. It is about walking in their shoes trying to feel the same emotions and think the same thoughts as they do.
If you understand their pain, their anger, their sorrow, their sadness, their regret, their fear, you would see how to apologize to eliminate those feelings.
An apology based on empathy is effective in making someone forgive you. This is because it shows the person you understand their pain, how sorry you are, and want to make things normal again.
2. Offering A Complete Apology
Apologizing shows that you have taken responsibility and will accept the consequences of your actions. It shows the person you hurt that you have a conscience. It is a way to let go of the anger and hatred that often results from being hurt.
A Complete Apology comes with five in-built conditions in the following sequence:
- Acceptance: Accept your mistake.
- Remorse: Tell them that you are regretful.
- Humility: Ask for their forgiveness with humility.
- Assurance: Assure them you won’t repeat it in the future.
- Correction: Ask them what they expect you to do to set things right.
3. Creating The Right Environment
A crucial thing is to respect their time and their space. Planning a few little gestures of goodwill, such as flowers or a gift, can show the other person you were listening to and willing to put in some effort to take responsibility for what happened.
It’s difficult to forgive those who have wronged us. We often push them away and spend more time thinking about what they did wrong rather than trying to find a solution. The same would be true for those who have wronged us.
Allow them time and space to process their shock at our wrongdoing. Inform them, via message or email, that you feel sorry about the incident and would like to speak with them about it when they are ready.
Ask when would be a good time for them to have that conversation. If they agree, let them choose a place to meet so that they feel safe. You may suggest a few places, like a barista or a bistro.
4. Being Transparent And Honest
One of the most important conditions for forgiveness is being honest about the mistake. Take full responsibility with complete integrity, without hedging or hemming.
You must not lie about it, nor should you talk about it as if it were a small misstep, and offer a simple acceptance. Do not say, “It wasn’t entirely my fault. It was the circumstance. What could I possibly have done about it?”
Doing so only adds more fuel to their anger or bitterness.
In any case, if an apology is dishonest, they will find out about it later, which will only make things worse.
5. Writing An Apology Letter
One helpful way to make someone forgive you is by writing a sincere apology letter. Words of apology should be written from the heart, not copied from a template.
Many people prefer to deliver the letter in person rather than mail it. Writing can help clear our minds and arrange our thoughts neatly.
After that, it is vital you refrain from contacting this person until they accept your apology.
Finally, if they reject your apology, it’s best not to try again because they may interpret it as your attempt to guilt-trip them.
6. Waiting Patiently For Full Forgivance
Forgiveness is often a long-drawn process. Not everyone can forgive easily or quickly. Sometimes, it may take years and many apologies to be fully forgiven. So, do not rush it.
Forgiveness may come late because of the misperceptions they have against forgiving, like forgiving is to appear weak or condone the act.
Some people think holding on to the hurt is more manageable than accepting an insincere apology, so they wait before extending forgiveness.
Another reason for the late forgiveness may be the victim feels the pain of the hurt is too unbearable to allow forgiving promptly.
Forgiveness may come in installments. When we want someone to forgive us completely, all of it may not come at once. The sufferer may keep checking our post-apology behavior and forgive us in limited ways as they feel safer and more assured. Keep that in mind and do not ruin your victim’s healing process by demanding quick forgiveness.
Many think non-forgiveness is an effective excuse to keep that person away from their lives. If not forgiven, the perpetrator will have doubts about trying to reconnect or reconcile, and may finally give up their attempts.
Deborah Schurman-Kauflin, a retired criminal profiler who has studied and investigated serial killers for more than 20 years, says one may successfully move on and heal themselves without forgiving the wrongdoer. She even feels that forcing or faking forgiveness can slow down or block the healing process.
If they don’t forgive you, accept that and move on.
7. Apologizing Again (After They Forgave You)
Apologize again if necessary after they have accepted your apology because people tend to feel uneasy about forgiving. They often feel as if forgiving was the right thing to do because they are not more sure if you would do the same thing again.
It’s also important to find out if the other person is still angry or upset with us. If they are still sad or resentful, it is almost imperative to apologize again, unless they have cut off all contacts with us.
Psychology of Getting Forgiveness
Psychology defines forgiveness as a deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward those who harmed you, irrespective of whether they deserve your forgiveness.
Our desire for forgiveness has some scientific basis.
Research points out forgiveness involves giving up the demand to punish the wrongdoer and decreasing negative feelings towards them. It also entails seeing the event from a neutral point of view and full acceptance.
Of course, we are all human, and that is why we make mistakes. Also, as humans, we are naturally forgiving and understanding. We care for people in our society, and we love our close ones.
We usually forgive others usually if their sins are not too grave. We feel we almost have to accept the mistakes we have made and ask for forgiveness. So, when we make mistakes, we expect others to understand us and similarly forgive us.
Now, the thing is sometimes we get forgiven easily, and sometimes it takes long efforts to get our forgiveness.
One factor that affects whether or not someone forgives us easily is the degree of the emotional pain they feel after we hurt them. The type of pain depends on the nature of the mistake we made, how much we hurt them, how bad they felt about it, and how remorseful we are.
Research shows harboring anger, resentment, and malevolence can have a detrimental impact on our physical and emotional health and our relationships (Gordon et al., 2009).
Moreover, when people report higher levels of forgiveness, they also tend to report healthier habits and low levels of depression, anxiety, and anger.
Forgiveness does not imply that you concede wrongdoing is acceptable. It doesn’t mean you want the hurtful person to accept you back in the relationship. Rather, forgiveness is the decision to accept what has happened is now a part of the past, and it is not helpful to linger on what should have happened instead.
Why It Is Difficult To Make Someone Forgive Us
The biggest problem is when they seek our apology, we say a few words to show we are apologizing, but we use a copious number of words to defend our action. We even go aggressive in the defense of our hurtful behavior.
When confronted, we point out we did it for the best of both of us, but could not understand how it hurt them. It is precisely this that makes many of our close ones find they cannot forgive us. They are not sure if our apology is genuine and if we will ever take reparative action to set things right.
Since we do not promise to not repeat our actions, they are also unsure if we deserve their forgiveness. So, even when they choose to forgive us, they may not truly do so.
As hard as it may be to believe, some of us believe forgiveness is a learned behavior. We go about our lives thinking the person will forgive us because, over the years, we have habituated them into forgiving us. So, they will forgive us every time we utter “Sorry.”
Let’s get this right. Never torture the victim into forgiving you. Their forgiving has nothing to do with how we feel because our apologies went unresponded.
Many people have a hard time forgiving others who have hurt them, and some of the most common reasons are fear of retribution, guilt, and self-blame. Forgiveness isn’t easy, but there are some things you can do to help ease your way.
We often spend a great deal of time getting our point across rather than listening to what others have to say. If you are one of those, you probably should learn the art of listening to someone attentively before telling people your side of the story.
Another mistake is what you’re going to tell them could be an excuse dolled-up as an explanation. So, make sure what you are about to say is not a justification or defense.
The best way to get someone to forgive us is to show we understand we caused them to hurt. When asking for forgiveness, we must genuinely care about what they have to say. At all times, we must be respectful of their boundaries.
The key is to show that you have a great wish to change yourself for the better and not repeat your hurtful act. Once you have done that, you can start thinking about how to follow through with your promises.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.
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