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Women's Health

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Health Benefits of a Sincere Apology

Saying you're sorry is potent medicine for the giver and receiver.

Stages of Life Keyed to Level of Healing continued...

In terms of health, Orsborn says, "Women at stages one and two tend to have more stress-related disorders and anxiety."

On the flip side, a study done in 2002 by researchers from Hope College and Virginia Commonwealth University showed that heart rate, blood pressure, sweat levels, and facial tension decreased in victims of wrongs when they imagined receiving an apology.

In both cases, the people were carrying "the pain of the past," as Orsborn puts it, and then could lay it down and walk away from it.

How to Say It Like You Mean It

Neither the apologizer nor the apologizee, however, will benefit if the apology is not sincere.

"Saying you are sorry is so difficult," Alexandra Delis-Abrams, PhD, also known as "The Attitude Doc," tells WebMD. "It's an ego thing. It's humiliating to say you were wrong and are sorry. It means you did something you shouldn't have and you know it. Now you have to take responsibility."

It helps only if you mean it, she adds. "People often just give it lip service. I think there is a song by Garth Brooks that goes, 'I buried the hatchet, but left out the handle.' You can't leave out the handle."

Orsborn recommends invoking a prayer from the Buddhist tradition. "Before you offer an apology or pick up the phone, sit comfortably, breathe slowly, and feel the burden of having not asked for forgiveness bear down on you. After you have felt that as deeply as possible, then say to yourself, "I have hurt someone out of ignorance, anger, or confusion, and I ask for the power to forgive myself."

Before you can ask for someone else's forgiveness, you have to forgive yourself, Orsborn says. "You won't get the benefits it you don't forgive yourself." In other words, more sleepless nights!

What Not to Say

Here are some wrong ways to go about it:

  • The DC Special. "If I have offended some people, I apologize." No if's.
  • The two-way. "I am sincerely sorry, but you sort of are to blame, too."
  • The reset. If the apology is a way to reset the system so you can offend again, this is also insincere. Often abusing spouses use this one.

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