Let’s unpack this shall we? I mean, it really depends on the situation, no?
⦁ Did you cheat on a partner?
⦁ Were you insensitive to a family member?
⦁ Did you betray a friend’s confidence?
⦁ Did you step on the back of a close colleague at work?
Each of the above situations, and the millions of other examples, have different factors to take into consideration.
When someone we care about doesn’t let us off the hook for something stupid and hurtful that we did to them, it hurts horribly. The “ick” factor is X a billion! That part of your life is closed. Boarded up. Not even “Under Construction”!
Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do. Your relationship with them might just be a lost cause. There is a whole host of things you can do for yourself and that may be where you find peace – within yourself.
Let’s take this in steps. You feel bad enough already!
1. It’s important to be empathic. Can you see why the other person feels this hurt, disappointed or angry? If not, talk to another friend or advisor to help you put yourself in their shoes. If you truly care about this person, understanding where they’re coming from might help you give them an apology that makes them feel heard.
2. Depending upon the severity of the offense, you might want to go for a few sessions of therapy especially if your behavior has been slowly escalating to the point where someone doesn’t want to forgive you! Maybe you ignored warnings. Holding up a mirror can be eye-opening.
3. Gifts and grand gestures as apologies for something this severe only serves to say, “Look at me and what I did”. So scrap that. The person is upset with you not "jonesing" for a shopping spree.
4. It’s scary to apologize for something so hurtful! Still, make sure that you haven’t glossed over an in-person (these days this means Zoom) meeting.
5. Then, several phone calls, but not obsessive. The idea isn’t to assuage your ick feelings but to have a “come to Moses/Jesus” moment for their benefit.
6. Mailing – not emailing – shows effort and writing that you are willing to be available for what they need to say, cry, shout to you can go a long way.
7. After all of these efforts, you can send an email – not to list all of these efforts – but to say that you are available to listen and you understand (with a sentence that shows that you have walked in their shoes) and are truly sorry.
You can end by saying that you care deeply about them and did not want to make them feel such: hurt, humiliation, betrayal, etc. and that you will be there for them when they are ready.
This sort of sentiment leaves the door open, tells them you have not given up on your relationship with them and that you will respect their space.
Finally, there is no “dealing” with someone who won’t forgive you.
There is only dealing with yourself going forward.