23 November 2009

Learning to say I am sorry

As seen in the Battleford's Regional Optimist

In the wake of public affairs, such as John and Kate, USA Governors, and David Letterman it is vital to learn to say sorry.

Saying sorry is not just saying, “I’m sorry.” It is not the time to blame either. An apology is taking responsibility for any hurt that you may have caused. It also does not matter if the hurt caused was intentional or not.

For example, let’s compare intentionally pushing someone off of a cliff to accidently nudging him or her off. The outcome for the individual is the same in both situations; they have fallen off the cliff. Of course, when it is an accident, we like to make excuses that it wasn’t our intention, it was an accident, it wasn’t our fault.

However, this doesn’t make the person who fell off the cliff feel any better. You need to say sorry, and apologize for what you are sorry about. “I am sorry that I pushed off of the cliff.” That’s it. Even if it was an accident, you need to own your actions.

Many of us will say the simple apology, but add: “If you weren’t standing so close to the edge, it wouldn’t have happened.” Saying that transfers the responsibility to the person you are apologizing to. When really, it was your actions, or careless actions that caused harm to the individual, which you need to be responsible for.

Now, to the person who is accepting the apology. Does this mean that you can now trust the individual? No. No! You do not have to trust this person. They need to now, through their actions, earn your trust. Continuing with our example, this means you do not need to be around edges with this person, even if invited.

An apology does not reinstate things to how they were in the past. What it is, is an admittance to falling off of the path of trust, and an commitment to bushwhacking your way back onto the path.

As people see that you are owning your actions via apology, and by your efforts to earn back trust, people will begin to trust you again.

One other thing. Never ask why. That is, never ask why they did what they did. Such as, “Why did you have an affair?” There is no answer to it that will make you feel better. They were being stupid, silly, or arrogant. It was a lapse in judgment.

Of course, apologies could be avoided. The only way for that to happen is to be accountable for your choices. Think before acting. Know the consequences for your actions. It is better to prepare and prevent than it is to apologize and repair.

If you do need to apologize, remember to be accountable for your actions when you apologize.