We’re all human, and for that reason, we’re all imperfect. We have our slip-ups, our ugly moments, our times that we wish we could take back. None of us are the exception here; we all make mistakes.
But, unfortunately, we don’t all know how to recover from them. The scenario goes: we say or do something that hurts someone else, we are both uncomfortable by what happened, and then we get to choose what comes next. Do we
- a.) sincerely apologize for what we did wrong, swallowing our pride and acknowledging our imperfections, or
- b.) stay silent, or worse, defend our egos and the actions we know were hurtful?
All too often, we choose the latter, and both parties carry on hurt, uncomfortable, and cringing over the next time they talk to the other person. But why do we do that? We do that because apologizing is admitting that we are not perfect, taking responsibility for our actions, and it leaves us feeling vulnerable. At that point, the ball is in the other person’s court to decide how they are going to react to your vulnerable state, and you’ve lost any control over the situation.
But when we find ourselves in those moments where we must decide between option a and option b, it’s so important to consider the other person. How has what you’ve said or done affected them? What does your lack of apology tell them about how much you value your relationship with them?
By saying “I’m sorry” and admitting that we were wrong, we tell the other person that we value our relationship with them. We admit our faults, and we are able to put the other person’s feelings before our own ego.
Studies show that in a disagreement, the person who was offended recovers significantly quicker if there is a sincere apology made by the other person. The key word there is “sincere”. If an apology lacks sincerity, not only does it not help the situation, it can actually hurt the situation and make the other person feel worse.
And while we all, in our rational, level-headed states know these things to be true, once we find ourselves in high-stress, impulsive situations we can forget all of it and continue to do harm to someone else. And while that’s not okay, it is human.
So, the next time you find yourself in the uncomfortable position of choosing between option a and option b, take a few moments to clear your head, think rationally about your options, and move forward in the way that will nourish your relationships and help them to grow. Because the last thing we ever want to do is hurt the people we love.