First, let’s look at what to do when we are the offender. Clearly an apology is in order, but not before seriously considering what it is you are sorry about. Nothing is more irritating to the person who has been offended than an insincere, pardon my language, bull shit apology. You know the kind, an apology where the person says, “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry you got upset” or I’m sorry, but…” or “I’m sorry if I hurt you”. All of these are examples of cheap, un-thoughtful apologies. Using these types of words in an apology may even add insult to injury. Usually only immature, selfish, shallow, but more often than not, unaware people give these types of weak apologies.
Never apologize for how a person feels. Saying “I’m sorry you feel that way” is nothing more than invalidating the other’s feelings. No one ever needs to apologize for how another feels. After all, they are responsible for their own feelings anyway. The only thing you ever need to apologize about is when you have caused harm and you realize you need to take responsibility for the harm you’ve inflicted. Granted some people are overly sensitive and get offended easily, if you realize you have hurt them, even unintentionally, just apologize. You can even apologize for your ignorance in the fact that you didn’t realize how sensitive they were about whatever it was that upset them. If you find that they are consistently getting upset and are always offended, simply distance yourself from such an emotionally underdeveloped person to avoid the ongoing conflict that is sure to arise.
The word but in an apology is like telling someone they are pretty except for the bulbous nose on their face. It’s hardly a compliment. Likewise, using the if word deflates the truth of the matter. There is no if in hurting someone who has made it clear you have upset them. Perhaps the only time you would use the word if when delivering an apology is when you think you may have offended someone but can’t be sure. In which case, it’s better to flat out ask the person if you’ve offended them or not and if so, apologize without the if word.
Don’t make excuses when you apologize. Don’t say “I’m sorry, it’s just my personality.” What a copout! Also, don’t say, “Sorry, I wasn’t trying to hurt you.” What normal person tries to hurt another? Simply say, “Sorry that I hurt you.”
Humbling yourself by giving an apology is in essence giving power to the offended. It may feel very hard to do but rest assured, by allowing your natural desire for harmony to outweigh your other natural desire to keep your pride and protect yourself will typically benefit everyone. Even if your apology is rejected, ignored, or scoffed at, you can rest in the peace of knowing that you have done your part in the attempt to restore the relationship. If it is important enough to them they should and most likely will accept your apology.
Now what on feeling as though someone owes you an apology? This is slightly more delicate to our self-esteem because if we don’t get the apology we feel we deserve it can make us feel insecure in the relationship that we value. It may rightfully so cause us to re-evaluate whether or not keeping this person around who has hurt us and shows no remorse is a good idea.
Sometimes even a mere acquaintance who should feel remorse and doesn’t can get under our skin. The best thing to do in this situation is remind yourself that very little is lost by having someone who barely knows you be at odds against you. You don’t need to worry yourself with what they think about you. If you trust in yourself, knowing that you have a good heart and strong character, there is no need to be troubled. Chalk it up to the idea that the two of you are better off not being friends.
No matter what, we must forgive. Forgiveness is not for the people who hurt us, it is a contribution for our own peace of mind. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to remain in the same relationship with the person. It just means that you don’t hold resentment in your heart. Holding a grudge is what weak people do. Mahatma Gandhi said that forgiveness is an attribute of the strong. Your best bet is to be civil if you must be around someone whom you find offensive. Cordiality is not extending a hand in friendship, nor does it mean you are submitting to a jerk. It just means you are wise, classy, and know how to keep the peace.
Sometimes sympathizing with your offender in terms of trying to see why they may have done what they did is helpful. Humanizing your enemy helps alleviate anger, resentment, and pain. Have you ever noticed that when you hear of child molesters or serial killers, some of the first questions that pop into your mind are, “How could they do that?” or “Why would they do such a thing?” It’s when we can’t even imagine how or why a person does what they do that makes it the hardest to forgive. ___________________________________________________________________________________
There’s an amazing website that I refer to on a regular basis anytime I need intelligent, emotional advice and insight. You can find it here. It goes in depth about a wide spectrum of emotional issues and teaches you how to respond and act emotionally mature. I wrote an article awhile back about how to improve your emotional intelligence and I think that’s worth going back and reading again as well. We all could use a little help in this department every now and again, especially when conflict occurs.
There is always a balance to everything. While peace is typically our highest objective, we must remember this. Sometimes peace needs to be forgone as a matter of honor. If you don’t stand up for whom you say you love or what you say you believe in, then you are by definition a coward. I feel compelled to say this because sometimes peace cannot solve your problems. Sometimes it’s necessary to stand up for yourself, your loved ones, or a cause you believe in. Eminem, that’s right, the rapper said, “You’ve got enemies? Good. That means you actually stood up for something in your life.” We can’t be friends with everybody. Of course we want harmony if it can be obtained but don’t be afraid to stand your ground if the situation calls for it.
In the words of a mother