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Making an apology comes naturally for some folks and can be very trying for others. We can store up an abundance of reasons not to apologize: it wasn’t my fault, he deserved it, I was right, she was wrong, it’s too late, it’s too soon. Even for those of us who will generally own up to our mistakes, apologizing can be difficult.
Recently I overreacted to a situation and was rude in response to something that was said. I had no way of knowing that I had misunderstood what was said, so was my rudeness really my fault? Yes. It was. But one of the challenges to offering an apology is getting past our own embarrassment and self-consciousness and just admitting we goofed.
Apologizing is a great moral lesson. When we apologize, we acknowledge that we made a mistake or offended another. We may not have intended to do so, but blaming the other person for his or her reaction only inflames the situation. For example, a not infrequent exchange between a man and a woman is that the man says something, and the woman gets upset. (I’m sure some of you can identify with that situation.) Instead of the man’s apologizing, at least saying he regrets that he hurt her feelings, he tells the woman she is “too emotional.” You men out there must know that comment is a really bad idea (unless you prefer to inflame the situation). Perhaps the woman seems too emotional to you, but that is a purely subjective evaluation. Not only that, it’s insulting. Don’t say it. A simple apology will do. And for you women who’d like to defuse the situation yourselves, just say, “You’re right. I’m too emotional.” That stops that line of criticism pretty quickly.
An apology sends many messages. It says that the speaker did not intend to hurt the other person. It says that he or she was out of line. It says that the person is willing to be responsible and accountable for what he or she says.
It says that the person cares about the relationship.
So the next time you do or say something that hurts, embarrasses, or upsets another person, stop for a moment. Whether or not you intended to do it, whether or not the person is (in your opinion) overreacting, whether or not there is any other excuse you can give, ask yourself, “Do I care about this relationship?”