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Did you make a "mistake"? How to express regrets...

Updated: Mar 22




I invite you to take a moment and think of the last "mistake" you consider yourself making.


How did you respond to the person impacted by it?


Is this how you typically respond when you consider yourself making a "mistake"?


Some of us blame the other person/party in order to move ownership away from ourselves. Many of us either sincerely or reluctantly apologize to the impacted party. We are all so accustomed to hearing "I'm sorry" that it has almost lost any meaning. It additionally falls short because it implies wrongness or wrong-doing instead of connecting and creating understanding.


Non-violent communication (NVC) practice pulls us out of this dichotomy of some things are "right" and some things are "wrong". This type of right/wrong thinking tends to lead to anger, resentment, guilt, shame, and violence. Instead, NVC encourages us to dig deeper to identify what needs were present, which were met and/or unmet, and connect with ourselves and the other to understand these needs.


Let's walk through this process...I encourage you to take out a paper and pen and write these down.


  1. Write what happened (just the facts). Example: I was running late for work and my car wasn't starting so I went into the neighbor's garage and took a bike without asking. When I got home, my neighbor seemed very angry and said, "I'm furious that you took my bike without asking."

  2. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. What feelings are present for you RIGHT NOW as you think about this situation? Example: I feel embarrassed, annoyed, disappointed, scared, and remorseful.

  3. What needs are present for you RIGHT NOW as you think about this situation? Example: I am needing understanding, empathy, and to be understood.

  4. Sit with these feelings and needs and give yourself empathy. Example: "I was so worried about losing my job if I was late and I need the financial security this job offers and I tried to meet this need at that moment the best way I knew how."

  5. Write it out and then verbally practice expressing this regret and connection request using the OFNR (observation, feeling, need. request) format listed below.

  6. OBSERVATION: As I think about how I (name clear observation),

  7. FEELING: I feel (regret, embarrassed, disappointed, etc).

  8. NEED: When I said/did that, I was not aligned with my values and I regret how this may have impacted you.

  9. REQUEST: I would like us to talk about this in hopes of (clearing the air/healing/getting back on track etc). Would you be open to having this conversation?

If the other person agrees to discuss this try approaching it this way:

Would you be willing to share how it was/is for you?

Give empathy for how the impacted person feels. Respond with empathetic guessing until they feel complete.


This may be very difficult to put into practice in every situation, but I have found that the more often you try to do this, the easier and more natural it becomes. Growth and change take time so give yourself some empathy around that. And, you'll know you have grown when someone hurts you and you try to understand them instead of trying to hurt them back.

You'll know you have grown when someone hurts you and you try to understand them instead of trying to hurt them back.


I'd love to hear your thoughts! Please share below in the comments!


xo-Erika

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