I find it quite fascinating that the majority of people I have encountered over my lifetime either don’t apologize or do it so badly (which is almost worse). Apologizing is incredibly powerful if done properly and for the right reasons. The husband who is “sorry” in a churlish tone to try and move on from a unpleasant conversation with their mate certainly does not qualify as an apology. Or as someone in my past life was apt to do was to apologize and in the same breath tell me it was my fault he did it. I never quite understood that one. I’m sure you will be able to furnish me some really good examples of what I refer to as the “no-apology apology”.
I’ll start by giving you my take on how to apologize properly and when it is appropriate and not appropriate. I currently have a wonderful person in my life who apologizes for everything; actually she uses it more as an expression. I’m trying to break her of this habit, wish me luck! Apologize when you recognize you are wrong and it is causing conflict with another person or you’ve hurt someone’s feelings. Apologize without qualifications, as soon as you qualify it with a “but…” you wipe out the goodness. Here are examples of bad and good ways to apologize.
Bad – I’m sorry I hurt your feelings, I‘m so pressured at work. (you’re blaming work and not taking responsibility)
Good – I’m sorry I hurt your feelings (simple, sincere – if you really did something bad you may have to add “Please forgive me”.
Taking responsibility when we hurt each other (intentionally or unintentionally) goes a long way to harmonize our interactions and build trust. I used to think that if you didn’t mean to hurt someone’s feelings you don’t need to apologize, I have since learned this is not so. You don’t need to apologize for the bad intention, you can apologize for how it made the person feel.
We all walk around with our emotional baggage we’ve built up over the years. If yours is weighing heavily on you and interfering with your life, I hope you will find a way to empty it and put it down. It’s such a relief.
Then there are those who think an apology wipes out any magnitude of sins. An apology can only do so much. Once a young child I know made a serious mistake and he apologized sincerely. I told him that I was glad he apologized however it did not erase what he did. I told him that if someone drives their car over someone’s foot and crushes it and apologizes, that the foot is still crushed.
I first became interested in the subject of how people apologize because my Father did not. Actually in my lifetime he apologized either twice or three times. This was not a trait I admired. I vowed that I would be someone who could admit my mistakes especially with my children. I always apologize to them when I blow it. You know the day you come home, you had a crappy day at work and then you walk in and your teenagers have left dirty dishes all over the living room. Then you get so mad at them you would think they had murdered someone in cold blood. The punishment did not fit the crime. It was time to apologize. Actually I feel much better after I apologize. I find it cleansing.
Men seem to have a harder time apologizing. Some cultures teach that to admit your mistake is to be perceived as weak and lacking leadership. I believe that to recognize your faults, take responsibility and to learn from your mistakes is the definition of strength.