I have been told that I don’t accept apologies very well. I think that is true, but I am not sure what’s so wrong with that. “Sorry” seems to be thrown around a lot and to be frank, I don’t accept it. Maybe my job makes it harder for me to accept apologies. I think I am pretty good at reading people at this point and I can usually tell if they mean something or they don’t. Maybe my job helped me look past what is essentially a “blow off” to the emotions behind what someone is saying, or worse yet what they are doing.
Being someone who handles emotions and who has quick access to her own feelings, I can tell you that I feel very deeply. Three years ago, I could never have admitted that fact. Feeling deeply is something that is looked down on by almost everyone in this country. Feeling deeply is a nicer way of saying being too sensitive.
Or is it?
I see feeling deeply as a strength that is different than being sensitive. I also see being sensitive as a strength and feel like our culture needs way more sensitivity if we are ever going to have fulfilling and happy lives. I cannot drive my car without getting the finger or feeling like I am in someone’s way. I have witnessed people getting their cars blocked in because they did not park the right way. I have the ability to look past the action and think of what may be going on for someone.
I have the ability to be sensitive.
I also take emotions for what they are. I accept responsibility for my emotions but also know that at this stage in my life, being almost 30, having graduated a Master’s program, having earned my state license, that when my emotions kick in they are doing so for a very good reason. I am in control of my emotions 98% of the time. The 2% of the time that I am not in control I can definitely own up to and I am not proud of those moments. When I get mad, it is usually because I feel attacked or feel that someone close to me is being attacked. When I get anxious, it is usually because I feel unsure of the next step and feel like the world is caving in around me. When I get sad, it is usually because I feel hurt. I feel my emotions and allow them to exist and I hold others responsible for their impact on my emotions just as I hold myself responsible for impacting others’ emotions.
The biggest way I hold myself responsible is by apologizing in a meaningful way.
The key components of an apology are acknowledging the action that happened, acknowledging the emotions elicited from that action, saying sorry, and giving a plan on how to not make it/let it happen again. It may seem like a lot because it is a lot. If you really want to repair something that occurred between you and someone else, knowing the right way to apologize is half the battle. Research shows that for every one negative action made in any relationship, you have to do 5 positive things to repair the emotional damage done.
Photo from Joshua Hook.
I have witnessed/been on the receiving end of many apologies that go something like, “I am sorry you feel that way.”
As my husband knows from the first time he said that to me,
that is not an apology.
No one can be sorry for someone else’s feelings. “I am sorry I hurt you” is a more fleshed out version of the same apology and that one acknowledges the emotion behind whatever happened.
Better yet how about saying, “I am sorry that my words hurt your feelings. I said what I said in anger and I do not believe those things about you. I am sorry and I plan on trying to take a break from the conversation if I feel myself getting angry.” Acknowledging all these different aspects makes it clear that you understand and validate the other person’s feelings and you respect them enough to show that you really do not want to hurt them again.
The 5:1 ratio is a very real thing so do not expect that your apology will fix the situation. You have to do things differently and show the other person you respect their feelings. Do not fall into the category of people who think emotions are lame. We all have them and we all deep down care about our own feelings, so why not try to show care for someone else’s?
Give it a try, acknowledge the action, the feelings you saw in the other, apologize, and figure out a better way to handle it next time. Let me know what you think!