The art of excuse

Source: Lina Trchent / Unsplash

We have all met people who never apologize, who proudly tell you that their families have a reputation for no apologies that stretches back generations. This tough stance is often mixed with notions of fierce independence, personal pride and a beggar-thy-neighbor mentality. Apologizing, according to this mindset, shows weakness and vulnerability; once you do, you risk being exploited.

For others, apologizing is less part of a philosophy than a determination of specific guilt in a situation that is clearly in the eyes of the beholder: “Did I really do something wrong?” Even if you think I do, I don’t, so there’s nothing in my head to apologize for. “Taking it a step further leads to a blame game:” All I did was only because of what you did, you are at fault here. ”This is especially the psychology of those who are prone to anger -“ I only got angry because you… ”

For yet another group, apologizing too easily gets stuck in the mud of a power struggle, a showdown to the death: “I won’t apologize unless you apologize for it.” ‘on board. . Your call.”

Even if your apology seems to put you in a weak position, the other person can’t take advantage of you if you don’t let them. And more importantly, the apology is not about right and wrong, an argument about the truth, but rather something else: taking responsibility for unintentionally (or yes, sometimes intentionally) hurting someone emotionally or physically. You apologize less because of yourself and your crime, but because of its effect on someone, usually someone you say you care about.

Taking the step to apologize is taking a step towards healing an injury, changing the climate of the relationship, getting the relationship back on track. And if you are a parent, it becomes a gift and a lesson for you to teach your children about how to be responsible and compassionate in the world and to others.

So how do you step in and be a compassionate, responsible adult who apologizes? Here are some suggestions.

Do not send SMS

Okay, you can text, but the text shouldn’t be longer than: “I’m so sorry for…” one sentence. More and you run the risk that the other person will read emotions in your post that you did not intend and that end up killing your excuses.

Send an email

An email, the modern version of the written letter, gives you the emotional and visual space to speak more fully. You can take the time to think about what you want to say, and unlike a phone call, you don’t suddenly embarrass the person and try to have a conversation at a bad time.

A good email should cover three points: one is the excuse itself, acknowledging that you are aware that you have hurt the other’s feelings and that you are sorry you did. The second is to provide a backstory, helping the other person understand what you were thinking and feeling at the moment that prompted your words or actions. It is important; in times of pain, the other person is most interested in knowing what makes you tick, and without your explanation, the person is likely to make up their own incorrectly. That said, your explanation is not a green light to be defensive and justify your actions. Keep your eyes on the prize – wanting to heal a wound. If you find yourself on the defensive, you’re not ready to write the email.

Finally, you want to include in your email anything that you think the other person might be starting to think. Here you say things like, I’m not trying to justify my actions, I’m not saying it was your fault etc. What you do by including these statements clarifies and hopefully calms any misreading and the other person’s reactions beforehand.

To follow

Don’t just send the text or email thinking you’re done. They lay the groundwork for a follow-up conversation. The purpose of a face-to-face or phone conversation is to hear the other’s reaction, to clarify what has been misinterpreted or not understood, and to assess whether what you hoped to do actually made a difference. been done.

Essential readings for forgiveness

What if the other person doesn’t accept your apology?

Circle back. Maybe there is something, despite your best efforts, that they haven’t understood or misinterpreted. Resist the urge to push your point or be defensive and upset in response. At some point, realize that you have done the best you can. It is time to move on.

Apologies are not about graveling or fighting, losing face or admitting defeat, or a manipulative tool to get the other to admit fault. It’s about mending wounds, wounds and relationships.

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