The Art of Apologies

It’s nothing new.

We’ve all done things to apologise for. From the careless comment to the unwelcome advice or thoughtless action, each of us has at one time or another felt a need to apologise to another human being.

This recently happened to me. I said something careless and found out later that it wasn’t taken the way I assumed it would be, the way it had been offered. So I tried to apologise. I honestly meant it and wanted in part for my apology to communicate my contrition and understanding of my faux pas. Only it didn’t go that way.

The person who told me off would not let me apologise. I don’t mean that he didn’t want me to, I mean he literally would not let me finish the sentence that began, “I am so sorry that I……”. BAM!

Listening is an active choice we make…. or don’t.

I was cut off mid-apology with a wave of the hand and the words, “Save it“.

Except that I felt that I shouldn’t “save it”. I was embarrassed by my behaviour, was willing to own what I’d done and wanted to let him know that he was right to point it out to me and that I’d pay more attention in the future. All of this compressed into what I was feeling was an honest apology, except I never got to finish. I tried three times!

I was at a retreat at the time and so I headed out for my assignment which was a meditation in the woods for the next 4 hours. I faced a 4-hour think on what had just happened.

“WE’VE ALL DONE THINGS TO APOLOGISE FOR. FROM THE CARELESS COMMENT TO THE UNWELCOME ADVICE OR THOUGHTLESS ACTION, EACH OF US HAS AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER FELT A NEED TO APOLOGISE TO ANOTHER HUMAN BEING.”

What finally occurred to me is that apologies require two parts of connection in order to be complete. The first is that someone apologises and really owns the behaviour that occurred. But what I’d never thought about was that the apology has to be accepted, I don’t mean the person who was wronged needs to agree and say,”oh that’s ok”. I mean that in order for an apology to actually fulfill its purpose, it has to be heard. It needs to be stated and listened to. When it’s not, there’s this really uncomfortable energy that hangs around and leaves both people feeling rather dissatisfied and unbalanced.

So the next time you give someone the gift of an honest response if they have hurt your feelings, make sure you include the whole gift; give them the opportunity to apologise as fully as they need, to make the package complete for both of you.

Apologies are all about having an honest connection with another person.

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