Have you ever hurt someone so bad that after the incident, they wouldn’t have anything to do with you? We sometimes forget that friendships, family, and professional relationships can be as complicated and important as romantic ones and that when we mess up, we need to take action to remedy the situation.
We try to treat the people in our lives with kindness and consideration, but sometimes we make huge mistakes, and in the process, damage our relationships.We might be a toxic friend, sibling, or partner, and not even know it. When this happens, it doesn’t matter what we do to make up for our offenses; it only makes them worse.
I used to believe that an apology was enough and that once I apologized, I was off the hook. After a little time to heal, our relationship would be stronger than ever. After a few of my apologies were rejected, I learned that an apology isn’t a guarantee and that people can make a choice not to forgive you.
However, forgiveness is a crucial element in repairing a broken relationship, but it’s hard to know how to deal with someone who won’t forgive you. Do you keep apologizing until theybreakdownand accept it, do you write them off, or do you refuse to respect their wishes and pretend like nothing is wrong?
When someone refuses to accept an apology, it can be confusing and painful. You don’t know what to do, especially if that was your only solution on how to make things better. So, we searched high and low for experts to give their tips on how to deal with someone who won’t forgive you.
How to Deal With Someone Who Won’t Forgive You
Get Clear on Your Objectives:
What’s your motivation for wanting forgiveness? Is having them accept your apology more about making you feel better than how they feel? Do you want to rebuild the relationship, or does having them not forgive you get in the way of the image you have of yourself? As much as you may want to feel better, the apology needs to be about them and their feelings.
Be Honest About Your Apology:
Did you put some thought into your words and how you said them or did you just type out a text and hope for the best? It’s not difficult to tell when an apology doesn’t come from a good place. “Take a hard look at your apology,” saysDonna Moriarty,authorof the book, “Not Just Words: How a Good Apology Makes You Braver, Bolder, and Better at Life.”“It may be that you apologized badly, meaning you made excuses for your offensive behavior, blamed the other person for their role in the situation, or brushed off their feelings. If so, you may havere-offendedthe person andre-openedthe wound.”
Ask yourself if you apologized with the best intentions and gave them space to tell their side of the story, or did you just go through the motions, doing the bare minimum? Sometimes an apology cancome off as a confrontation, and thatdefinitelywon’t get you a positive result.
Take Responsibility for the Pain You’ve Caused:
You might not understand why they’re upset, but that doesn’t mean their feelings aren’t valid. “While it feels good to be forgiven, you cannot make them forgive you,” says psychologist andauthorof “Bouncing Back from Rejection,” Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D. “So, if they refuse to accept your apology and harbor negative thoughts and feelings about you, it’s best to accept those thoughts and feelings on the matter. You might even be able to empathize with them.” It’s impossible to know how to deal with someone who won’t forgive you if you don’t think you did anything wrong in the first place.
If Appropriate, Correct Your Mistakes:
If you’re concerned about how to deal with someone who won’t forgive you, chances are that you’ve tried to correct your mistakes. You’ve done some damage control so that things wouldn’t escalate and cause any more emotional, mental, or physical distress. Making up for your wrongdoing may not be immediately apparent, and you might need to think outside the box.
An example might be if you havean ongoing feud with your neighborsbecause your dog used their front lawn as a toilet, and you never cleaned up after them. You’re going to have to take some responsibility and rectify the situation. Since you can’t time-travel back and clean up your dog’s mess, you can offer tohouse-sitorpet-sitfor them when they go out of town. Sometimes a small gesture of kindness is all it takes for someone to start the process of forgiveness.
Think About Why They Chose Not to Forgive You:
We all have the choice to accept an apology or not. “When someone does not forgive us, we first need to check in with ourselves to see whether we’ve done the work of forgiveness,” saysSamantha Crowe, PhD., ICF-ACC. Certified Dare to Lead Facilitator. “Have we been accountable for the harm we caused? This means correcting any wrongs that can be corrected. It also means apologizing with remorse and witnessing their pain, listening to their story of hurt, and honoring it as their truth. If we debate the hurt we caused or [try] to justify our actions, we are not witnessing their pain,” says Samantha Crowe.
Ask Yourself If It’s Worth It to Apologize Again:
If apologizing, again and again, is only going to make things worse, it may not be inanybody’sbest interest to keep doing it. Was the relationship one in which both people felt supported? You may not need to know how to deal with someone who won’t forgive you but rather when to see that it’s not worth your time or energy trying to seek atonement. Jazz musician/author,Adam Colesays, “There’s a tradition in Judaism that you should apologize three times to someone you’ve hurt, and if they do not forgive you after the third time, you have done your best and can move on. It’s immensely difficult to ask the third time. However, there’s some release in knowing that you’ve made yourself vulnerable enough to accept the pain you’ve caused.”
Try a Different Approach:
If you’ve made peace with the fact that you may never be forgiven, and you still want to try again, maybe try going at it from a different angle. “Assuming you have already sincerely apologized byadmittingwhat you did was wrong, naming the specific thing you did, and taking responsibility for that in person, try writing it in a letter,” says therapist,Helen Chalmers, LPC. “Ask for the opportunity to make it right, and if the person talks to you, really listen to what they have to say.”
Make Sure You Have Realistic Expectations:
As much as you may want the person you’ve wronged to forgive you, it’s not a given that they will. Try to set realistic goals such as opening a dialogue or not feeling as if you have to avoid running into them for the rest of your life. If the best you can hope for is the feeling that you did everything you could (within reason), then that’sOK.
Don’t Give All Your Power Away:
It’s reasonable to want forgiveness but not at any price. No forgiveness is worth losing your self-respect or feelings of self-esteem. “So many of us wait for approval to live, appreciation to show up, attention to feel good enough. And a lot of us wait for another to forgive us for moving on,” says Intimacy Expert,AllanaPratt. “Yet, that’s being avictim, giving our power away to another person. To take your power back, in your journal, thank THEM for ‘giving’ you this experience because it’s taught you many lessons [such as] allowance, bravery, responsibility, courage, and compassion. Allowing another [person] to NOT forgive you while blessing and releasing them ends the toxicity in your body and can empower you to move on and shine, regardless of circumstances or the opinions of others.”
Give Them Space:
It may be hard to know how to deal with someone who won’t forgive you—especially if you have no contact with them and are never in the same space with them. However, sometimes allowing them to cool down and heal at their own pace without any interference from you can help them to start to thawtowardyou.
Show Yourself Some Compassion:
Besides not knowing how to deal with someone who won’t forgive you, it may be challenging to knowhow to forgive yourself. You messed up—it may have been intentional, or it may have been out of your control at the moment, but there have been negative consequences because of your actions.
However, beating yourself up isn’t going to help matters at all. Not only should you forgive yourself but you should also show yourself some compassion. Do some self-care and treat yourself the same as you would any loved one who was going through some emotional trauma. “Once you have reflected on your actions and the situation, acknowledging at you have done your best to make amends, it’s time to forgive yourself,” says relationship expert,AdinaMahalli.
Let It Go:
Learning how to deal with someone who won’t forgive you may not feel the same as just letting it go, but sometimes that’s the best thing you can do. You can’t make them forgive you, all you can do is assure yourself you did your best and release it. “If you’ve sincerely tried to make things right with someone that matters, and they still aren’t ready to forgive, your only choice is to give it time,” says Donna Moriarty. “Sometimes, people come around after they’ve had a chance to process their feelings. Some will never come around. If your conscience is clear and you’re still seeking peace of mind, you need to forgive them for their inability to forgive.”
Every situation and person is different. What worked in the past may not necessarily work this time. It’s hard to know precisely how to deal with someone who won’t forgive you. Some people are in our lives for a controlled amount of time. You may have learned the lesson that you needed from them, and now it’s time to focus on doing better in the future.