How to Get a Piece of Peace in Your Life

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Apologies, part one

Apologies have quite different meanings to each of us. While we have some general rules on when and how to apologize, the giving and receiving part is laden with our own personal expectations or beliefs.

Occasionally we put a lot of weight into apologies. It is the one thing that we wait for from someone else, to make everything right again. Sometimes we don't give it any importance at all, believing that the apology is full of empty words and that the proof is in the change of behavior.

Here are some guidelines for apologies:

1. Give an apology when you are genuinely sorry that something in your control affected someone in a way that you did not intend. This apology does not signify that you inarguably did something wrong, it is a way to acknowledge that there was a discrepancy in expectations and actions.

2. Give an apology with no expectation that it will be well-received, that trust will be restored, or that it will solve the conflict. Simply remember what you have control over--giving the apology.

3. While you may want an apology, and you may request it, your efforts to demand it or to keep conflict going without an apology may not be beneficial to you. If your happiness depends upon someone else's actions, you have given up the control to choose your own emotions.

4. In accepting an apology, you are not condoning or excusing behavior. It does also not equate to forgiving. You are simply acknowledging that someone is apologizing. You can accept an apology for what it is addressing, and continue to act upon future events or interactions. Allow the apology to represent exactly what it is. Any promise of change is separate from the apology.

5. A person can choose to act certain ways repeatedly and also follow those actions with repeated apologies. Each of these apologies carries the same weight, regardless of a lack of change in behavior. However, you can also choose to change the relationship with or the expectations of the other person. Allow the apology to stand on its own, yet choose to think or act in a way that will work best for you.

You can only control what you say, what you think, and how you act. The rest lies with the other person.

Each of us has a unique set of personal rules, developed through our history, family, culture, and society. We may all interpret each other in quite different ways. The key is to be able to successfully communicate, cooperate, and live together on this planet.

What meaning does an apology have for you and the people around you?