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Why Won’t You Apologize?: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts

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Renowned psychologist and bestselling author of The Dance of Anger sheds new light on the two most important words in the English language—I’m sorry—and offers a unique perspective on the challenge of healing broken connections and restoring trust. Dr. Harriet Lerner has been studying apologies—and why some people won’t give them—for more than two decades. Now she offers co Renowned psychologist and bestselling author of The Dance of Anger sheds new light on the two most important words in the English language—I’m sorry—and offers a unique perspective on the challenge of healing broken connections and restoring trust. Dr. Harriet Lerner has been studying apologies—and why some people won’t give them—for more than two decades. Now she offers compelling stories and solid theory that bring home how much the simple apology matters and what is required for healing when the hurt we’ve inflicted (or received) is far from simple. Readers will learn how to craft a deeply meaningful “I’m sorry” and avoid apologies that only deepen the original injury. Why Won’t You Apologize? also addresses the compelling needs of the injured party—the one who has been hurt by someone who won’t apologize, tell the truth, or feel remorse. Lerner explains what drives both the non-apologizer and the over-apologizer, as well as why the people who do the worst things are the least able to own up. She helps the injured person resist pressure to forgive too easily and challenges the popular notion that forgiveness is the only path to peace of mind. With her trademark humor and wit, Lerner offers a joyful and sanity-saving guide to setting things right.


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Renowned psychologist and bestselling author of The Dance of Anger sheds new light on the two most important words in the English language—I’m sorry—and offers a unique perspective on the challenge of healing broken connections and restoring trust. Dr. Harriet Lerner has been studying apologies—and why some people won’t give them—for more than two decades. Now she offers co Renowned psychologist and bestselling author of The Dance of Anger sheds new light on the two most important words in the English language—I’m sorry—and offers a unique perspective on the challenge of healing broken connections and restoring trust. Dr. Harriet Lerner has been studying apologies—and why some people won’t give them—for more than two decades. Now she offers compelling stories and solid theory that bring home how much the simple apology matters and what is required for healing when the hurt we’ve inflicted (or received) is far from simple. Readers will learn how to craft a deeply meaningful “I’m sorry” and avoid apologies that only deepen the original injury. Why Won’t You Apologize? also addresses the compelling needs of the injured party—the one who has been hurt by someone who won’t apologize, tell the truth, or feel remorse. Lerner explains what drives both the non-apologizer and the over-apologizer, as well as why the people who do the worst things are the least able to own up. She helps the injured person resist pressure to forgive too easily and challenges the popular notion that forgiveness is the only path to peace of mind. With her trademark humor and wit, Lerner offers a joyful and sanity-saving guide to setting things right.

30 review for Why Won’t You Apologize?: Healing Big Betrayals and Everyday Hurts

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    "Why Won't You Apologized", examines "The Many Faces of 'I'm Sorry". For two decades Harriet Lerner has been studying apologies. She's learned a few things ---witnessed tremendous powerful rewards from a heartfelt apology-- as well as the damage a bad apology can cause. The healing power of a 'good' apology is immediately recognizable. Anger and resentment melts away. It feels better to be connected than disconnected....but as Harriet says, "we're all apology-challenged with certain people and i "Why Won't You Apologized", examines "The Many Faces of 'I'm Sorry". For two decades Harriet Lerner has been studying apologies. She's learned a few things ---witnessed tremendous powerful rewards from a heartfelt apology-- as well as the damage a bad apology can cause. The healing power of a 'good' apology is immediately recognizable. Anger and resentment melts away. It feels better to be connected than disconnected....but as Harriet says, "we're all apology-challenged with certain people and in some situations. How many of us say: "Hi, My name is .......I'm happy to meet you. I'm looking forward to our working together. And by the way...."I'm a Champion Apologizer"!! Yikes.....I'd wonder if this person going to steal my lunch-- then offer up their 'champion apology'? Kidding aside....We prepare our taxes ( ok, maybe not the President), we prepare for weddings, exams, speeches, living trusts, recitals, dinner guests, etc.....but do we prepare ourselves for effective apologies? ......where the person you care about -and you -both are left feeling -- love - lightness - and connected? Seeing the missing links to 'what-was-missing' in a couple of past situations for myself was beneficial--not from blame - or shame - or guilt... but from 'humanity' - all parties involved. The examples in this book were terrific- clear - and easily applied to my own 'memory-of- a -situation' ---- ones I wished would have gone differently. Great little book to 'look-inward' with. Self - evaluate. Complete - Take responsibility for 'our parts' of an apology- no more - no less. While reading the information that Harriet Lerner was dishing out - at first it seemed reasonable --good common sense'.... but looking deeper, I saw several holes in my 'apology-education' ---giving and receiving. I don't considered myself a complete moron-- fruitcake -of having no desire & skill to apologize, but I wouldn't win a grand prize as "Champion Apologizer" either. I DEFINITELY picked up some insightful brilliance-- the "Oh, of course, now I see the fool I was"!!!! I want to be better prepared for relationship bumps in the road. I CARE WHOLEHEARTEDLY about my relationships. So... I 'must' continue to house clean with myself. I'm a turd sometimes - and so are other people. Being a little more prepared for the hurts and pains is just that: BEING A LITTLE PREPARED! So how do we do this - so we all win? Can we prepare for the sudden shocking harsh criticism that seems to come from nowhere? How would anyone know how to respond effectively to an 'on- the-spot' attack? .....when emotions are stirring and defensives are rising? THE ADVICE in this book is worth hundreds of dollars!!!! "When we've been insulted or injured by someone who just doesn't get it, we can learn the steps necessary to change the tone of the conversation and get through. Other times, however, nothing we say or do will change the unrepentant wrongdoer. In fact, the more serious than harm, the less likely it is for the wrongdoer to feel genuine remorse and make amends. What does the hurt party do then?" "The challenge of apology and reconciliation is a dance that occurs between at least two people. We are, many times over, on both sides of the equation". I TRY TO REMEMBER-- we've all been on BOTH SIDES OF THE EQUATION .....It helps with compassion, empathy, and forgiveness. Harriet gives examples of common apology mistakes --such as 'adding on'...."but" or "if". Even if we are convinced we are only partially at fault - --- we can saved a chat for a later - different conversation at a different time. A true apology isn't about us. At the same time we do not need to forgive the person who has hurt us to feel free from obsessive anger and bitterness. Her chapters on forgiveness add new light to the word. Harriet says it's not our job to encourage others to forgive. We need ways to protect and support our feelings of resentment - anger - and general negative feelings inside -but we can't force or push premature forgiveness. People need to take the amount of time they need. Effective apologies involve more than saying the right words or avoiding the wrong ones--- but as Harriet points out it's useful to know the difference. She gives a lesson in "Bad Apologies 101". .... those "buts", "if's", "justification", "excuses". After we understand simple and middle size apologies- giving and receiving- she moves on to more complex complicated situations. And this is where your money is well spent. A good apology is a gift....,but a failed one is a terrible cost. Tons of great examples of both in this little gem of a book!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sheri

    We’ve all witnessed, or more likely experienced firsthand, the power of an apology. A sincere apology can repair damage done, while an insincere, or even absent apology, can cause further hurt that hits us harder than the deed that should be apologized for. Harriet Lerner shows us how to compose an honest and heartfelt apology, receive an apology, and move forward in restoring our relationships. Well worth the read!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jaidee

    3.5 "an important conversation to begin" stars !! All of us have been hurt by strangers and loved ones alike. These hurts take up a disproportionate amount of our interior lives and are sometimes the cause of dysfunctional ways of being in the world, in our relationships and with ourselves. Dr. Lerner begins a very important conversation about the nature of hurt, betrayals, apologies and forgiveness. She bitten off a huge topic and in a pleasant and vaguely helpful way discusses the nature of th 3.5 "an important conversation to begin" stars !! All of us have been hurt by strangers and loved ones alike. These hurts take up a disproportionate amount of our interior lives and are sometimes the cause of dysfunctional ways of being in the world, in our relationships and with ourselves. Dr. Lerner begins a very important conversation about the nature of hurt, betrayals, apologies and forgiveness. She bitten off a huge topic and in a pleasant and vaguely helpful way discusses the nature of the above with research, clinical examples and her own lived experience. The writing is accessible and interesting but she fails to delve into any of the above with the gusto and detail that I craved. This is neither clinical manual nor self-help book but rather a meandering albeit wise tome that weaves in and out with insight and keen observations. This is the kind of book that you may need to read two or three times to allow the material to permeate your own defenses and emotional reactions. On first read, though, I wanted and expected more from this most helpful of psychologist ! I will not apologize for that !!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This book explores the power and potential pitfalls of apologies. It offers a guide to the art of crafting an apology that is meaningful and can restore trust. The book also offers insight to situations where the offended person feels they are owed an apology but are not receiving one. And there’s also advice on how to properly receive an apology when it does come. The author is a psychologist with years of experience to draw from in offering examples of situations where apologies were a factor This book explores the power and potential pitfalls of apologies. It offers a guide to the art of crafting an apology that is meaningful and can restore trust. The book also offers insight to situations where the offended person feels they are owed an apology but are not receiving one. And there’s also advice on how to properly receive an apology when it does come. The author is a psychologist with years of experience to draw from in offering examples of situations where apologies were a factor in saving or ending relationships. The book acknowledges times when relationships can’t be restored and in some cases shouldn’t be saved. Early in the book the reader is challenged with the following situation:It’s a profound challenge to sit on the hot seat and listen with an open heart to the hurt and anger of the wounded person who wants us to be sorry, especially when that person is accusing us (and not accurately, as we see it) of causing their pain. Yet both personal integrity and success in relationships depend on our ability to take responsibility for our part (and only our part) even when the other person is being a jerk.Indeed such a situation requires a well grounded and emotionally secure person to respond without blurting out a pseudo apology (an apology followed with “but … “ ) Another example of a pseudo apology is “I’m sorry you feel that way,”—in other words, “I’m sorry you (not me) has a problem.” Being human by definition means being imperfect and prone to error and defensiveness. Thus finding the internal wisdom, insight, and strength to craft an effective and heartfelt apology is a skill that doesn’t come naturally to most humans. The examples described in this book offers suggestions and ideas of useful tools, technics, and approaches to various situations. Sometimes the best approach is to concentrate on listening to the other person's feelings, and if it has come as a surprise to ask for some time to think it over. So how does a victim of betrayal or hurt manage to get over it and move on? The short answer is "any way that works." It will be different for different people. Also, this book takes the position that it is not necessary for a hurt victim to forgive in order to recover and leave it behind. Forgiveness is a personal decision, not something to be told to do.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Antigone

    The most valuable part of this book is Lerner's list of five ways to ruin an apology. Having had apologies ruined for me in just these ways, I thought I might confirm a bit of this. 1. I'm sorry, but... Doesn't really matter how you end that sentence, it's always going to boil down to, "I'm sorry, but I don't owe you an apology." 2. I'm sorry you feel that way. "...and here are a few therapists I can recommend to help you with that. Because, you know, the fact that you have feelings is something you The most valuable part of this book is Lerner's list of five ways to ruin an apology. Having had apologies ruined for me in just these ways, I thought I might confirm a bit of this. 1. I'm sorry, but... Doesn't really matter how you end that sentence, it's always going to boil down to, "I'm sorry, but I don't owe you an apology." 2. I'm sorry you feel that way. "...and here are a few therapists I can recommend to help you with that. Because, you know, the fact that you have feelings is something you should really look into." 3. The Mystifying Apology Also known as apologies that don't make any sense. Let's say, for example, someone hurts your feelings and then leaves you alone for a little while. Later you find out the leaving-you-alone was meant to be the apology. "I was respecting your feelings!" You mean this pain you brought into being? Seriously? So, in essence, you've been respecting your own handiwork? Good to know. 4. Forgive me already - and do it now! It is absolutely astonishing how very many people believe the mandated response to "I'm sorry" is "I forgive you." Hold up on that response and you are denying them their rightful share of absolution. Suddenly they're mad as hornets...because, of course, the power has shifted. And right there, before your very eyes, they magically transform into victims. 5. The Intrusive Apology This is the apology you get from someone whose treatment of you was so egregious that you've decided to have nothing else to do with them for the rest of your life. Also known in my house as: The Your-Feelings-STILL-Mean-Nothing-To-Me Apology...generally offered up by The Only Person on The Planet Who Matters. I wish I could say the rest of Dr. Lerner's book was of equal value to me, if only in terms of what it might serve to validate. Sadly, it wasn't. For someone who so resolutely espouses the worth of clarity and brevity, it was puzzling to encounter so little of that here.

  6. 5 out of 5

    DeB MaRtEnS

    5 stars. Harriet Lerner's latest book is filled with points on apology: the bogus apology, the overlong apology, holding off on the use of BUT and IF which are dealbreakers, and when and how to give and accept an olive branch. Earnest, honest considerate apologies retain connection in relationships, demonstrate respect and maturely express accountability. And most people have a hard time letting go to offer an apology- Lerner covers that and more in her very informative book. I was hoping to fin 5 stars. Harriet Lerner's latest book is filled with points on apology: the bogus apology, the overlong apology, holding off on the use of BUT and IF which are dealbreakers, and when and how to give and accept an olive branch. Earnest, honest considerate apologies retain connection in relationships, demonstrate respect and maturely express accountability. And most people have a hard time letting go to offer an apology- Lerner covers that and more in her very informative book. I was hoping to find something a bit different than that, wise advice that it is. And eventually, on page 143 of this 190 page guide, I did, plus more. I'm an apologizer, an anomaly in my original family. It was a family that didn't talk about the big stuff, a mom who shut down from my non-apologizing father, siblings who took cues on how to hold power - and I learned to shut up and try to avoid getting in trouble. My father carried and created weighty grudges. My mom ran interference when she could. Apologies were not modelled in that household. By the time I'd married my second husband, I'd realized that I wasn't a fighter. Neither is my husband. Neither of us had to duck the other and we could refine the art of apology, listening closely and respecting each other. I had a safe zone. I began to take that safe zone with me, in encounters with others, and practiced my apologies openly where I understood I needed to. Not perfection, just trying. When a sequence of shattering episodes of power plays, blaming, shaming and fury blew up recently, with forty year old grievances I'd never heard before, I was gutted. I was the fall guy for a difficult family transition and their minds were made up. My original family was oddly now serene. There would be no conversation with them. They had said their piece, closed the door. I was uncomprehending. I tried reason, letters, wishes for explanations, apologies for my ignorance, desire to understand, notes and gifts over an extended time, hoping. Nothing. My father's cross generational pattern of "cut off" had found me. "Losses we don't see coming are the most difficult to deal with. ....When the non-apologetic wrongdoer has never been accountable, our reactive brain excels in rehashing grievances." "A heartfelt apology allows the hurt party the space to explore the possibilities of healing instead of just trying to make sense of it all. The apology is also a gift to ourself." "...we (cannot) orphan ourselves from our first family. When we cut off from a close family member, that person becomes an even bigger presence inside us." So... how do I go on? I've travelled the corridors of grief and guilt, of disbelief and utter helplessness. I've struggled with irony that my family has been the centrally most important aspect of my life, argued with "letting go" and wrestled with the knotted concept of forgiveness. Harriet Lerner writes, "When it comes to our close relationships, I agree with the words of Janis Abrahms Spring: 'YOU DON'T RESTORE YOUR HUMANITY WHEN YOU FORGIVE AN UNAPOLOGETIC OFFENDER; HE RESTORES HIS HUMANITY WHEN HE WORKS TO EARN YOUR FORGIVENESS.'" Thank you, Harriet Lerner. For now, then, I'll just breathe. Five stars. RECOMMENDED. Valuable nuggets on a challenging social skill and relationship changer.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Connie D

    This was a tough book to read....it made me realize how skimpy and hollow some of my apologies have been and why they didn't elicit the responses that I'd hoped for. It's a wonderful book -- deep insights, great anecdotes that really help explain how different "apologies" and responses affect us, interesting discussion about the possibility of forgiveness, and so many ways to help understand ourselves and others. I may have to buy this in the future...and mark it all up to remind me when I forge This was a tough book to read....it made me realize how skimpy and hollow some of my apologies have been and why they didn't elicit the responses that I'd hoped for. It's a wonderful book -- deep insights, great anecdotes that really help explain how different "apologies" and responses affect us, interesting discussion about the possibility of forgiveness, and so many ways to help understand ourselves and others. I may have to buy this in the future...and mark it all up to remind me when I forget how to apologize, how to handle non-apologies, etc.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rose

    Quick review for a quick read. It took me around 4 or so hours to read through this thought-provoking psychological read on the dissection of apologies. Topics that Harriet Lerner approaches in this book include what constitutes an apology (and what doesn't), what the types of apologies are, when and how to give them, why people don't give them, and the reception of apologies on a number of different levels. I also like the fact that this narrative mentions that you don't need to forgive someone Quick review for a quick read. It took me around 4 or so hours to read through this thought-provoking psychological read on the dissection of apologies. Topics that Harriet Lerner approaches in this book include what constitutes an apology (and what doesn't), what the types of apologies are, when and how to give them, why people don't give them, and the reception of apologies on a number of different levels. I also like the fact that this narrative mentions that you don't need to forgive someone for a wrongdoing in order to move forward from it (which is well-intentioned advice, but not a one-size fits all for every person and situation). I like the fact that this book unpacks so many different scenarios with empathy, detail, cultural references, and application. I didn't have previous expectations as to what to get out of this brief read, but it left me with much to think about long after I finished it. I will definitely keep this in my personal library and will revisit it in moments where I need to look at difficult conversations and situations on a number of levels; wonderful audio narration by Cassandra Campbell. Overall score: 4.5/5 stars.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This book deserves 5 solid stars, and I don’t give out 5 stars very often. This book is invaluable to anyone who has friends and/or family in their lives who lack luster in the apology department. It covers both big hurts, such as deep seeded wounds of child abuse, as well as smaller offenses, such as a friend not saying thank you when you pick up the check. I have people in my life who behave this way and I find it very frustrating. For this reason, I decided to read the book for myself as well This book deserves 5 solid stars, and I don’t give out 5 stars very often. This book is invaluable to anyone who has friends and/or family in their lives who lack luster in the apology department. It covers both big hurts, such as deep seeded wounds of child abuse, as well as smaller offenses, such as a friend not saying thank you when you pick up the check. I have people in my life who behave this way and I find it very frustrating. For this reason, I decided to read the book for myself as well as a possible recommendation for my clients. I don’t like to recommend a book to a client if I myself haven’t read it from cover to cover. So there I went plowing away at this book , turning the pages and devouring the wisdom on every single page. Dr Lerner delivers her wealth of knowledge and experience with both empathy and humor - a combination I found to be very endearing and personal. By the end of the book, I felt I had just completed a very long, cathartic and productive therapy session myself. . . and I needed it. Who doesn’t? 🙂 Going into this book, I had expected to gain insight as to why others don’t apologize, as well as how I can learn to live with or confront their shortcomings. These insights are indeed in the book and extremely helpful. And in fact, I really wish some of my family members would read this book and learn how to give a heartfelt apology. However, I didn’t expect to experience self growth in terms of my own shortcomings when it comes to not only giving my own proper apology , but in the ways in which I ask for an apology. I sure can improve on both fronts . . . and I will. ❤️ If you are one of this people who “over apologize,” (I am not), the book also addresses this behavior and you may find it helpful. 🙂 Thank you Dr Lerner . . . I appreciate the therapy session! What a bargain!!! 💜🌷

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marina Sofia

    Sensible, clear and wise advice, with humour and honesty throughout. Just what I needed to read and think about. Many clear examples and suggested scripts. A balanced approach, without much of the quasi-mystical gobbledy-gook of many self-help books on this topic.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Su

    Reading this book was kind of a wake-up call for me. Before I read this book, I couldn't even recall how many times in my life that I said "sorry" to the other people that they couldn't accept. I got hurt and frustrated so often thinking that the other party did not have the willingness to fix the problems while I wanted to. I would easily jump to conclusions that the other people were being difficult or they just wanted to prolong the fight. The thing was that I was never aware of how insincere Reading this book was kind of a wake-up call for me. Before I read this book, I couldn't even recall how many times in my life that I said "sorry" to the other people that they couldn't accept. I got hurt and frustrated so often thinking that the other party did not have the willingness to fix the problems while I wanted to. I would easily jump to conclusions that the other people were being difficult or they just wanted to prolong the fight. The thing was that I was never aware of how insincere some of my apologies may have sounded or they actually were. Which is why this book came to rescue. Ever since I started reading this book, I got this conscious angel on my shoulder warning me all the signs of making faux apology. This book got me to take a step back and think before I'd apologize someone. "Am I really sorry? Or do I just want to shut up the other person?" And surprisingly, the latter happened more often than I thought. It made me reflect on my past experience with other people and I also started to realize how I may have even worsened the bad situation with my apologies. It was a great read. I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the rest. I got a little bored after I had finished 60% or so but I would definitely come back to this book whenever I need the advice. It is going to be one of the necessary handbooks of my life.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sindhoo

    This is life changing. Harriet Lerner manages to articulate everything that goes so deeply (and to me before I read this book, inexplicably) wrong with relationships - all in a 4 hour book about apologies. I loved this so much that I am going to buy the hard copy as well.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ashleigh Rose

    Go read this now. It will make you a better person. And then you'll give it to someone else to make them a better person. Go read this now. It will make you a better person. And then you'll give it to someone else to make them a better person.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sophy H

    Very very informative and useful tool for anyone trying to cope with being overly defensive in their relationship. Bloody learned behaviour, pssh!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Liz Elsen

    I really enjoyed this book. There were several nuggets that resonated. I listened to the audiobook, but kept stopping what I was doing to make notes, and write down quotes. I’m going to spend some time thinking about this one. “Not everything we break can be fixed” is a big take away.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I first read about this book in the context of so many male politicians' inability to apologize in Rachel Miller's newsletter (which is great in its own right, you should subscribe). Since then, I've actually read this twice. The first time I read it, I read quickly (and while I was going through a divorce) and even at that speed it was helpful and insightful. It changed the way I apologize and how I interact with coworkers. The second time I read it, I read it slowly with a pen and journal near I first read about this book in the context of so many male politicians' inability to apologize in Rachel Miller's newsletter (which is great in its own right, you should subscribe). Since then, I've actually read this twice. The first time I read it, I read quickly (and while I was going through a divorce) and even at that speed it was helpful and insightful. It changed the way I apologize and how I interact with coworkers. The second time I read it, I read it slowly with a pen and journal near by and it was even more rewarding. Highly recommend.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Heidi

    A slender volume full of generous insights into good and bad apologies: how to frame a deeply meaningful one; how to identify “weaselly” insincere ones; when to accept, when not to, and how to go about it; how to express hurt and pain; how to hold the conversation that comes after; and what the elusive term “forgiveness” means and doesn’t mean. As to that last point, it’s a myth that “there’s no peace or healing without forgiveness.” Many paths roll up to the door of being able to let go, and th A slender volume full of generous insights into good and bad apologies: how to frame a deeply meaningful one; how to identify “weaselly” insincere ones; when to accept, when not to, and how to go about it; how to express hurt and pain; how to hold the conversation that comes after; and what the elusive term “forgiveness” means and doesn’t mean. As to that last point, it’s a myth that “there’s no peace or healing without forgiveness.” Many paths roll up to the door of being able to let go, and the one labelled forgiveness may not always be the best one. Beware the forgiveness police, she says—those who pressure you to do what doesn’t feel right or possible. And yet Lerner’s approach is all about respect and empathy. You can reach a place of love for a wrongdoer without forgiveness, she says. At its essence is letting go of the need for the other person to be different. That’s when you know you’ve arrived. Utterly brilliant. I let out a whoop when Lerner discourages readers from applying labels to people (like borderline or narcissistic personality disorder), in favour of “knowing their history and their stories.” Could there be a better reason for writing memoir? (Answer: no.) What she is advocating takes far more thought and care. “Achieving a wider historical perspective…can change the meaning of a family member’s behaviour,” she says. By widening the lens, “we temper our anger with compassion, even as we hold that person accountable for their actions. It always helps to have a larger picture…” It sure does, and that goes for ourselves, too. We need to understand what drives us. We also, Lerner says, need to acknowledge the inevitability of conflict in this world, and give up the fantasy that we’ll go through life without periodically being mistreated. The way to survive that one is to know we are enough unto ourselves. A wonderful book full of “aha” moments, by a longtime favourite author who shows us to ourselves with clarity, understanding and humour.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ghaida Moussa

    Super helpful and lots of examples! She mentions other cultures' views on apologies but then re-centres one view and I wish there was a bit more space left for the former. But still, worth reading! Super helpful and lots of examples! She mentions other cultures' views on apologies but then re-centres one view and I wish there was a bit more space left for the former. But still, worth reading!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    This was recommended to me by a solid source and I'm really glad I read it. Harriet Lerner has a way of putting things. Something important this book reaffirmed for me is we shouldn't wait around for or expect people to apologize. We can move forward with our lives irrespective of their choices and their version of whatever it is we feel they should apologize for. Especially since, from their perspective, they may well have done nothing wrong. It sucks, to be sure, but it's also liberating and he This was recommended to me by a solid source and I'm really glad I read it. Harriet Lerner has a way of putting things. Something important this book reaffirmed for me is we shouldn't wait around for or expect people to apologize. We can move forward with our lives irrespective of their choices and their version of whatever it is we feel they should apologize for. Especially since, from their perspective, they may well have done nothing wrong. It sucks, to be sure, but it's also liberating and helps me feel at peace with leaving things up to God to sort out. Someday He'll help all of us recognize the things that we need to apologize for. Some will have Big Betrayals to account for and I know we all inflict Everyday Hurts on each other -and everything else in between. In any case, God will ultimately set everything right and I don't need to waste time or energy in the here-and-now on things that are outside of my control. Something that has helped me tremendously is realizing that it gets to a point where it's really not about the other person -- whatever it is they've done is between them and God. How I conduct myself in the face of big betrayals and other injuries in life is between God and me. And He can use these things to shape my character and help me grow in unbelievable ways. Lerner shares an account at the end of the book about one of her clients that had a big impact on me. The things her client, Katrina, learned as she was trying to heal from a massive betrayal felt authentic and resonated with me. Katrina's husband moved their family across the country for a lucrative opportunity that would advance his career. This meant Katrina needed to make sacrifices in her own career and leave her friends and family, but she was willing to do it. She came to find out that the reason her husband wanted to relocate was to be closer to his long-distance mistress, who he moved in with not long after the family's arrival. Classy. Lerner shares about how Katrina, though of course in tremendous pain, handled her circumstances with grace. As a testament to her character, Katrina even attended a weekend workshop about trying to forgive others as she was trying to work through the healing process. She told Lerner that the conference really didn't do anything for her; she literally could not visualize the one who betrayed her enveloped in an aura of light, as she was instructed to do. But she did take away some valuable insights she discovered on her own (no thanks to the conference); She realized that at some level her former husband could not be as happy as he appeared or even believed himself to be, because people who deceive and diminish others are not deeply happy and fully at peace with themselves. She also realized that despite some on-going envy and resentment for the good life he had, she did not want to be him. She did not want to be a person who would do what he had done. Her dignity and integrity were intact. Qualities far more important than money could buy. Katrina said these insights were not new to her, but often what we need most to learn is not new, rather, we must need to learn what we already know and...live it at a deeper level." Sigh. It's all so hard. We're all so mortal. Thankfully God is not.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maryam

    “Letting go of anger and hate requires us to give up the hope for a different past, along with the hope of a fantasized future. What we gain is a life more in the present, where we are not mired in prolonged anger and resentment that doesn't serve us” This book is quite important Everyone should read it and realize that thoughtful apologies can mend relationships while thoughtless ones worsen them.. I realized that the way people apologize tells a lot about them too.. She also addresses forgiveness “Letting go of anger and hate requires us to give up the hope for a different past, along with the hope of a fantasized future. What we gain is a life more in the present, where we are not mired in prolonged anger and resentment that doesn't serve us” This book is quite important Everyone should read it and realize that thoughtful apologies can mend relationships while thoughtless ones worsen them.. I realized that the way people apologize tells a lot about them too.. She also addresses forgiveness which’s a controversial topic imo.. I liked how she approached it. I enjoyed it.. it made me ruminate.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bailey L.

    I read this book after listening to her podcast episode with Brene Brown. It was a little different than I expected — I learned about what makes a good and bad apology for sure. However, there were a lot of examples in the marriage and family categories and a little light on the work examples from my POV. I still grasped the point though. She didn’t say more than what needed to be said for the most part. I am glad I read it and would recommend this book to anyone who knows they need to forgive s I read this book after listening to her podcast episode with Brene Brown. It was a little different than I expected — I learned about what makes a good and bad apology for sure. However, there were a lot of examples in the marriage and family categories and a little light on the work examples from my POV. I still grasped the point though. She didn’t say more than what needed to be said for the most part. I am glad I read it and would recommend this book to anyone who knows they need to forgive someone/ask for forgiveness and can’t figure out how. I also think this probably would be good for all married people.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Megan W

    This is a helpful book to listen to if you had a weird childhood, are constantly mad and felt wronged in your life. I’ve read many books on forgiveness but this one I actually heard. Helpfully lets you understand how to give and accept an apology along with better understanding what to do with bullshit ones too and how to identify them.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Clinton Hutchings

    Great, quick book that covers some complex situations and explores why/how/when to say I'm sorry. 4.5 stars! Worth another listen soon. Great, quick book that covers some complex situations and explores why/how/when to say I'm sorry. 4.5 stars! Worth another listen soon.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Holly

    I would give this book to all my friends and all my enemies if I could. It’s that good. Empowering and relieving and funny and also practical. I’m about to be a Harriet Lerner superfan.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrea McDowell

    This was a great book about how apologies should work, and the many reasons they don't, between mostly functional human beings who usually care about each other, and when (and when not) to forgive someone. I like to say that a real apology has five parts: 1) the words "I'm sorry" or "I apologize," 2) a description of what offence was committed, 3) an acknowledgement of the damage that offence caused, 4) a promise not to do it again, and 5) some kind of description of how that promise will be kept This was a great book about how apologies should work, and the many reasons they don't, between mostly functional human beings who usually care about each other, and when (and when not) to forgive someone. I like to say that a real apology has five parts: 1) the words "I'm sorry" or "I apologize," 2) a description of what offence was committed, 3) an acknowledgement of the damage that offence caused, 4) a promise not to do it again, and 5) some kind of description of how that promise will be kept. So: "I'm so sorry I spent $5k in Vegas last weekend and then lied and said I spent only $500. I know I made you feel betrayed and broke our trust. It will never happen again. Next time I travel without you I will show you bank statements before and after I go so you can see." Or: "I'm so sorry I yelled at you and called you a peanuthead. I know that was belittling and hurtful. I won't do it again. Next time I'm that tired and angry, I'll leave the room for a few minutes before we talk so I can avoid calling you names." See? Not so hard. Except that it is hard, apparently, in practice, and Lerner goes into a fair amount of detail in describing all the ways that apologies can go drastically wrong and make things worse instead of better: I'm so sorry you're so sensitive. I'm sorry if that made you angry or whatever. I'm sorry but it was a long time ago and you need to get over it. I'm sorry. I'm not perfect and I never meant to hurt you. I'm sorry if you feel like I lied to you. I'm sorry, I don't remember it that way. I'm sorry for whatever you think I did wrong. etc. etc. All of which sound like, to the hurt party, "I'm not actually sorry, but I need to have this relationship restored to its former level so I'm going to use the word "sorry" couched in a lot of language making it very clear I consider myself totally blameless and you just completely crazy for being so upset. If you don't forgive me right away I'm going to consider myself the wronged party." And then it doesn't work. Shocking! I also appreciated her discussion of when forgiveness is not the right or healing thing to do, and the difference between forgiving and letting go. If you often feel yourself ambushed by the forgiveness police, this chapter alone might be worth reading the book for. My only real quibble is her assumption that non-apologizers and faux-apologizers are always well-intentioned people, and her selection of examples to support her theses often go out of their way to avoid situations where that is clearly not true. For example, she spends a bit of time talking about a mother-daughter situation where the daughter was molested by her father and the mother, on learning about it, dragged them all into therapy but did not leave her husband/the girl's father for what he did. She left him, instead, years later when he cheated on her (the mom). The story in the book focused on the girl's anger at her mother for not leaving him for the molestation, and what the mother needed to do to repair the relationship in terms of hearing her out and apologizing. Which was all excellent. But the glaring giant purple elephant in the room was the fucking (no pun intended) dad. Who clearly made no attempts to repair the relationship, didn't apologize, and was a monster who molested his daughter. So what about him? What about that relationship? What about the assholes and abusers who can't or won't apologize, not because they're well-intentioned people with shaky self-esteem, but because they are predators without a conscience? Lerner doesn't discuss this at all. And it's a real oversight, because I imagine a lot of people picking up this book will be looking for insight and information about these kinds of situations, and her stories provided plenty of material, but she just skipped right past it. Good book, quick read, fairly useful--big gaping hole in the middle.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sean Goh

    Reminiscent of Brene Brown, Lerner has written a guide for those figuring out how to move on after a relationship has been damaged (i.e. all of us). TL;DR: To heal, the hurt party needs to hear an unequivocal validation of the awfulness of the experience, and an affirmation that their feelings and perception make sense. Plus if you can never bring yourself to forgive someone, that's ok. ___ Questioning ourselves for being "oversensitive" is a common way that women, in particular, disqualify our leg Reminiscent of Brene Brown, Lerner has written a guide for those figuring out how to move on after a relationship has been damaged (i.e. all of us). TL;DR: To heal, the hurt party needs to hear an unequivocal validation of the awfulness of the experience, and an affirmation that their feelings and perception make sense. Plus if you can never bring yourself to forgive someone, that's ok. ___ Questioning ourselves for being "oversensitive" is a common way that women, in particular, disqualify our legitimate anger and hurt. The fact that some of us feel more vulnerable than others in a particular context does not mean we are weak or lesser in any way. Conversely, the number one risk factor for being a non-apologiser is being born male. It is a profound challenge to sit on the hot seat and listen with an open heart to the hurt and anger of the wounded person who wants us to be sorry, especially when that person is accusing us (and not accurately, as we see it) of causing their pain. Both personal integrity and success in relationships depend on our ability to take responsibility for our part (and only our part) even when the other person is being a jerk. The need for apologies and repair is a singularly human one - both on the giving and receiving ends. We are hardwired to seek error and defensiveness, so the challenge of offering a heartfelt apology permeates almost every relationship. The apology is the chance you get to establish ground for future communication. This is an important and often overlooked distinction. "I'm sorry you feel that way" is a pseudo-apology because it paints the other person as the one overreacting to one's own "normal" behaviour. The higher the anxiety in any system, the more individuals are held responsible for other peoples' feelings and behaviour rather than their own. Offering an apology, followed too quickly by a request for forgiveness can short circuit the necessary emotional process of the hurt party. The purpose of an apology is to calm and soothe the hurt party, not to agitate or pursue her because you have the impulse to connect, explain yourself, lower your guilt quotient, or foster your recovery. Part of a true apology is staying deeply curious about the hurt person's experience rather than hijacking it with your own emotionality. What her daughter wanted was what we all want in our most important relationships. She wanted her mother to really get her experience and care about her feelings. Being a good listener also means that we can tell the other person when we can't listen - that we know when to say "not now" or "not in this way". When we tolerate rudeness in a relationship habitually we erode our own self-regard and diminish the other person by not reaching for their competence to do better. Listening is not a passive process. There is no greater challenge than listening without defensiveness. Perfectionism can make it difficult for any of us to offer a simple apology, because we are unlikely to be able to view our errors and limitations in a light and self-loving way. When we adopt an attitude of terminal seriousness about our mistakes, its more difficult to admit error and apologise for being wrong. Once we label and shame people we narrow the possibility of redemption and positive change. A heartfelt apology for serious wrongdoings can only be offered by those who can see their mistakes as part of being human, and who can hold on to a big picture of their multifaceted, ever-changing self. The most basic rule of good communication - criticise the behaviour, not the person. Observations suggest that the higher the word count on an emotionally loaded subject, the faster the other person shuts down. You can shame someone into saying sorry with a one-liner, because shame is that powerful. But shame will not inspire reflection, self-observation, and personal growth. We target female figures (mother ILs, daughter ILs) not only for their own difficult behaviours (for which they are accountable) but also for the passive or distant behaviour of husbands, fathers and sons. In this way we may avoid the challenge of holding the men in our lives responsible for having a voice, for managing their relationships with courage, clarity and conviction. Don't demand an apology. People do not respond well to being told how they should think, feel or behave - and that includes being told to apologise. Many of us dismiss apologies that the other person had gathered the courage to make for the reason that we want to end an uncomfortable moment as quickly as possible. If the person offered the apology, it bothered them enough for them to bring it up. If they pushed through their discomfort to apologise, we can push through our discomfort to say "thanks for the apology". Accepting an apology doesn't always mean reconciliation. We may never want to see the person who hurt us again. We can still accept the apology. But not everything we break can be fixed. When an apology sounds false or tries to reverse blame, it can take courage to call the person on it. As a general rule, consider keeping your default position as accepting the olive branch, which simply means that you agree to end a fight, lower the intensity, and open a space for moving forward with goodwill. Under stress people easily get polarised and divide into opposing camps. We get overfocused on what the other party is doing to us and not for us, and underfocused on our own creative options to move differently and deintensify the situation. We want change but don't want to change first - a great recipe for relationship failure. Relationships get into and out of trouble in predictable and patterned ways. Relationships operate in a circular, not linear fashion, the behaviour of each person provoking and reinforcing the behaviour of the other. The real question is not who started it, but what each person can do to change their steps in the dance. With the best of intentions we almost always leave it to the hurt party to reopen the conversation about a painful or traumatic past event. But it shouldn't just be the hurt party's job. It becomes their job because they are so often left with it. The conflating of letting go with forgiving confounds much of what's written about the necessity to forgive. The research might more accurately state that chronic, nonproductive anger and bitterness is bad for your health. Or that compassion and empathy, even for those who hurt us, are good things to cultivate. It's hard to argue with that. It's simply that none of these good things require forgiveness. What does the hurt party need to hear? People who appear to be holding on to anger or bitterness frequently did not experience a clear, direct, heartfelt validation soon after an earlier betrayal or act of neglect occurred. To heal, the hurt party needs to hear an unequivocal validation of the awfulness of the experience, and an affirmation that their feelings and perception make sense. You are not a less loving or whole person if there are certain things you do not forgive, and certain people you choose not to see. Most importantly, it is no one else's job to tell you to forgive - or not to. We may resist letting go of our anger because it keeps us connected to the very person who has hurt us. Anger is a form of intense (albeit negative) attachment just like love. Both anger and love keep us close to the other person, which is why so many couples are legally divorced, but not emotionally divorced. She also realised that at some level her husband could no be as happy as he appeared or even believed himself to be, because people who deceive and diminish others are not deeply happy and fully at peace with themselves. Letting go of anger and hate requires us to give up the hope for a different past, along with the hope of a fantasized future. What we gain is a life more in the present, where we are not mired in prolonged anger and resentment that doesn't serve us. Sometimes the only motive behind an apology is the wish to restore one's integrity, to heal the relationship with one's own self. A true apology does not ask the other person to do anything - not even to forgive.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Emi Bevacqua

    Dr Lerner covers but also goes beyond the standard what-makes-a-good-apology-or-a-bad-apology, explaining the proper response to a good apology is "Thank you for the apology. I appreciate it" and that you do not necessarily have to accept every apology 100%, for example, "If you see the problem as my reaction, and not what you said, I'm afraid I can't accept your apology". What I most appreciate are her focus on the fact that sometimes there is no apology or even reasons or explanations forthcom Dr Lerner covers but also goes beyond the standard what-makes-a-good-apology-or-a-bad-apology, explaining the proper response to a good apology is "Thank you for the apology. I appreciate it" and that you do not necessarily have to accept every apology 100%, for example, "If you see the problem as my reaction, and not what you said, I'm afraid I can't accept your apology". What I most appreciate are her focus on the fact that sometimes there is no apology or even reasons or explanations forthcoming, regardless of how much you deserve or want them; and her generous explanations for dealing with that. This chunk in particular, about a woman who transitioned from "I'm the wronged one and I'm the one who's suffering" to speaking her truth and finding peace, really spoke to me: ...she realized that at some level he could not be as happy as he appeared or even believed himself to be, because people who deceive and diminish others are not deeply happy and fully at peace with themselves. Letting go of anger requires us to give up the hope of a different past along with that of a fantasized future. What we gain is a life more in the present, where we are not mired in prolonged resentment that doesn't serve us.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jason Scott

    Audiobook. One of my favourite narrators. I really enjoyed this book. It deals with both sides of the equation, being the person giving the apology and the person receiving the apology. There's a lot of wisdom on relationships in this book that goes beyond apologies. One idea that stuck with me was how shame can interfere with our ability to apologize. When we have done something shameful it can be hard to be accountable to it, we keep justifying the shameful action, to weasel out of it. We give Audiobook. One of my favourite narrators. I really enjoyed this book. It deals with both sides of the equation, being the person giving the apology and the person receiving the apology. There's a lot of wisdom on relationships in this book that goes beyond apologies. One idea that stuck with me was how shame can interfere with our ability to apologize. When we have done something shameful it can be hard to be accountable to it, we keep justifying the shameful action, to weasel out of it. We give a faux-apology that tries to shift blame away from us. “Letting go of anger and hate requires us to give up the hope for a different past, along with the hope of a fantasized future. What we gain is a life more in the present, where we are not mired in prolonged anger and resentment that doesn't serve us.” “The best apologies are short, and don't go on to include explanations that run the risk of undoing them. An apology isn't the only chance you ever get to address the underlying issue. The apology is the chance you get to establish the ground for future communication. This is an important and often overlooked distinction.” "Losses we don't see coming are the most difficult to deal with. ....When the non-apologetic wrongdoer has never been accountable, our reactive brain excels in rehashing grievances." "A heartfelt apology allows the hurt party the space to explore the possibilities of healing instead of just trying to make sense of it all. The apology is also a gift to ourself." "...we (cannot) orphan ourselves from our first family. When we cut off from a close family member, that person becomes an even bigger presence inside us."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alana

    There is so much wisdom here! I will read this book again. Much of the content has lead me to really challenge my own behaviour in my relationships and has fostered compassion for those in my life who struggle with apologies. The one major flaw of this book was some of the content in the end. Loved her perspective on forgiveness but was a bit frustrated by the lack of practical guidance on how to let go of unproductive anger and bitterness. Dr. Lerner kept encouraging the reader to let go of unp There is so much wisdom here! I will read this book again. Much of the content has lead me to really challenge my own behaviour in my relationships and has fostered compassion for those in my life who struggle with apologies. The one major flaw of this book was some of the content in the end. Loved her perspective on forgiveness but was a bit frustrated by the lack of practical guidance on how to let go of unproductive anger and bitterness. Dr. Lerner kept encouraging the reader to let go of unproductive anger with what felt like empty platitudes and her analysis of why we hold on to bitterness felt hollow and judgmental. This is in direct contrast to 85% of the book but it was a turnoff. This was still worth the time and I've benefited greatly from reading this.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Seamons

    All the reasons why we don't want to or feel we should have to apologize and all the reasons why it's important to do provide an honest, heartfelt apology in the correct way. All the reasons why we don't want to or feel we should have to apologize and all the reasons why it's important to do provide an honest, heartfelt apology in the correct way.

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