By Chris Clemente
Believe it or not, saying sorry doesn't come naturally to everyone. But just because people aren’t good in saying or showing it doesn't mean they shouldn’t learn. After all, effort does count in apologies.
The worse you are at it, the more you should practice because, you know, practice makes perfect. And in the spirit of perfection, here are some reminders about the art of apologizing.
1. Know what you're apologizing for.
If you don’t know where to start, start by saying sorry for the most obvious thing. Some suffer from this sickness called cluelessness, and it can add fuel to the fire that is the other person’s wrath. But often enough, we know what we did. It doesn’t matter if we want to admit it out loud, but deep inside, we know. Next, try to retrace your steps (or words) to see where things started going sour and apologize for what your offense could’ve implied. Sometimes it’s not just what you did, but what it meant or what it could jeopardize.
For example, you were late in picking up your girlfriend. She gets upset. Why? The obvious offense being you were late. But ask yourself why is it important for you to be on time. Maybe you guys were going to a family affair, and it would not look good if you were late. Maybe it was a work dinner she couldn't afford to miss. Maybe it was because she got all dolled up for you and wanted to be fresh when you got there.
There are many accompanying reasons why someone gets upset, and, sometimes, you need to apologize for those, too.
2. The apology isn’t for you, it’s for the other person.
Many people tell themselves that they’re not ready to apologize yet, and they’ll do so when they’re ready. It could be because they don’t feel sorry, or they’re embarrassed, or they don’t know how or where to start.
But one thing to remember is that when you’ve offended someone, the apology isn’t for you. It’s for the other person. On that note, you don’t apologize when it’s convenient for you, you don’t do it in a way that’s acceptable for you, and so on. The consideration should be for the other.
If you think about it, why should it be on the offender’s terms while the person aggrieved is left to feel attacked and hanging?
3. Say it, even if you don’t mean it—yet.
Some people just need time—to realize the harm done, to let their actions sink in, or to feel sorry for it. But the thing with apologies is that even if you say it when you don’t mean it yet, the time will come when you will, and it’ll be easier to make amends and let it go.
If you wait until you’re ready (which might not come,) you risk missing that window of opportunity when it will matter most. And it’ll be more difficult to rectify the situation.
We’re not defined by one action or one mistake. But a series of mistakes and what you do after them will definitely mold your character. Knowing how to apologize is a life skill, and one everybody needs to learn to grow relationships and themselves.
Originally published in NoInk in October 2017. Edits have been made.
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