I feel sometimes as if I have spent a good portion of my life apologizing. From the time I was four and tearfully wailed, “I’m sorry,” after being scolded by my parents, throughout my adulthood where it seems the apologies stem from not being up to par — apologizing to myself and others — to even now, as I feel the urge to apologize in advance that I may not be able to write for 40 days straight.
Part of it comes from guilt, which seems to be quite genetic in my family. “I’m sorries” have always seemed to come quite effortlessly, even when I knew things were not my fault; in fact, I think it’s those types of apologies where my compassion shines through.
Many years ago when I worked in the Training department of a frequent flyer program, we were always thinking of slogans that would help the skills of our customer service agents. One that I came up with was, “It doesn’t have to be your fault for you to say, ‘I’m sorry.'”
Almost every apology creates the opportunity for the recipient to accept the apology, and graciously; yet so many times I have apologized to someone about coming up short on something, making a mistake, saying the wrong thing, etc, only to have the recipient make me feel worse by adding to what I already feel apologetic about. It’s as if they are taking advantage of my vulnerability and sensitivity. We’ve all had it happen:
You: “I’m sorry about (what I did)…”
Recipient: “Yeah, well, you also need to quit _______…” Sometimes a laundry list of other accusations follow.
Apologies don’t always put you in the clear.
Personally I feel that those who can’t accept apologies from others without unloading other peeves they may have with the apologizer, possess a certain amount of ungraciousness, cowardice and apparently frustration — and it’s doubtful you’ll get an apology from them on any of those traits.
Apologize and move on. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t be plagued with guilt. Good chance the wailing child from long ago was able to abide by this. So should you.
True, apologies don’t always get you off the hook. There may be more to talk about. But an apology is always a good start.