The Healing Phrase

how to heal relationshipsI once sat with a couple during their argument. She was upset, and she let him have it.

She accused him of several hurtful mistakes. When she paused, he admitted he’d screwed up and said, “I’m sorry.”

She looked at him blankly for a moment, and then continued her tirade. When she paused a second time, he said, “I won’t do it again.”

Once more, she jumped right back into her rant. In fact, her accusations continued until finally he asked a crucial question. This one question was more profound than admitting he was wrong or even promising to avoid the same mistakes in the future.

He said, “How can I make it up to you?”

And that was when her anger melted. She began to speak softly and look him in the eye. In a more loving tone, she told him what she needed him to do differently. He listened and seemed to understand.

To be honest, the whole thing confused me initially, but then I reflected on it a bit and it made perfect sense. Let me explain why that last question worked.

He began by saying he was sorry. Not a bad start, but not what she needed to hear. An apology is good for accepting responsibility, but it’s really just a statement. It doesn’t fix anything.

Recognizing that, he addressed the future by telling her he wouldn’t do the same things again. Better, but still not quite what she needed. There’s some comfort in knowing the same thing won’t happen again, but that doesn’t make things better right now.

Then he asked, “How can I make it up to you?” That was what she needed to hear.

When someone asks, “How can I make it up to you?” they’re taking responsibility for making things better…right now. It’s a true healing gesture, and it works wonders.

Here are two ways you can put it to good use.

how to heal relationshipsFirst, the next time you accidentally hurt his feelings, remember the power of asking, “How can I make it up to you?” That gets to the heart of the matter fast. You’ll get to watch his anger and frustration melt as he hears that you’re willing to do something to better the situation. Seriously. It’s amazing.

Second, the next time he hurts your feelings, consider what you want from him before you confront him.

He may get frustrated during the conversation and say, “I already said I’m sorry. What more do you want!?” If that happens, you can calmly reply, “I want you to ask me how you can make it better.” That’s the beginning of a more constructive conversation.

The key is addressing the past, the future and right now, and that one question manages all three. Make it your go-to when things get tense.

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9 thoughts on “The Healing Phrase

  1. Mels said:

    Is it too masculine to accept apology and ask for something that will make it better? Like thank them for apology and ask if they’ll make special chili for you or go on extra date night?

    • James Bauer said:

      I like your idea. I’d say if your intuition tells you it’s a good fit for the personality of the man you are dating, then go for it.

  2. Anonymous said:

    I have used different words that mean the same – What can I do to make it right? These words worked for me. Of course my intentions were to make it right after hurting the man in my life.

  3. Leandra said:

    I recently let my sister down again and she specifically asked me not to say sorry. She is on a very spiritual path and want nothing more than to fix the relationship between us. I’m hoping this works.

  4. Judy Magill said:

    Good advice, but what can you do or say when your man tells you that something you’ve said or done is unforgivable. Even when they’ve done same to tou

    • Jen said:

      I think that as much as this may hurt, you are not responsible for their behavior. You can’t force someone to accept an apology or accept your amending behavior. If they don’t want to forgive, there’s nothing you can do but let go. Ultimately, you are only responsible for your behavior. Did you do the right thing? Did you attempt to make amends? Did you try to fix the mistake? That’s all you can do. I realize this doesn’t make you irresistible, but in the end, you’re only responsible for yourself.

  5. D said:

    This sounds good in theory but some guys wouldn’t stretch that far and either say or think the gal is too high maintenance- so I’ve heard.

    • Jen said:

      Well, who wants a man like that anyway? Better to let that one go and find one who truly deserves you! You are not high maintenance because you expect someone to live up to your standards… you’ve just been expecting it from the wrong men!

  6. Phile Mamba said:

    All I can say is wow! It took me only 10minutes reading to understand how I’ve been destroying my relationships.

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