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Can You Apologize to Yourself?

One of the frequent questions I get when I speak about effective apology is some variant of, “Can I apologize to myself?”

If I press the questioner, the question generally takes the form of, “Well, I really am sorry–believe me!–but for various really good reasons I really can’t offer a full-throated apology to the victim. But I really am sorry and will mend my ways. So can a really sincere apology to myself get me off the hook?”

And my response to this question is another question.

Can you tickle yourself?

The answer is, well, yes, but where’s the tickle? When you’re in control of the tickle, you’re not ticklish.

You can certainly go through the motions, but there’s no payoff.

The excruciating thing about tickling (if you’re ticklish) is what makes apology so excruciating.

It’s the loss of control. The unpredictability. The vulnerability. Only when you let the other person have power over you does the transformative power of apology work its magic.

Can you apologize to yourself?

No. Apology–like tickling–must be done in relationship using the currency of all relationships” trust, power, and vulnerability.

Where's the payoff?

Where’s the payoff?


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