I like to think that I’m REALLY approachable, but one thing I’ve learned recently is that the people closest to me, whether it’s my best friends, my partner, my children . . . none of them really enjoy telling me what it is that I’ve done to upset them.
Their reasons differ, of course. But the bottom line is they don’t tell me those things frequently, so when they do it takes me off guard. Most of the time I know enough to listen and apologize, but then it just leaves this “icky” feeling. Just like you, the last thing I want to do in my relationships is bring harm to the people I love. But I’m very imperfect, so it happens.
I’ve referenced the time recently when I had the opportunity to hear how my actions were impacting my loved one. As I sat and listened, I knew his words were right and things I needed to hear so that I could be a better person in our relationship. As the conversation drew to a close I simply said, “I’m sorry. I hear you and see that I do those things. I had no idea how it made you feel, so I’ll work on those things. But for now, that’s really all I can do is say ‘I’m sorry.’”
None of us like being called out on our stuff that brings pain to others. But it is a part of healthy relationships in all aspects of our lives.
Learning to apologize is one thing, but accepting the apology is just as important.
We got off the phone and each went about our day. I honestly had no idea how our conversation would develop “post-apology” and frankly I was uncomfortable sitting with knowing I’d brought him pain.
When someone apologizes to us, how we respond is equally important.
So often when apologies are offered we respond by saying, “It’s ok.”
But saying “it’s ok” isn’t necessarily the best path.
Think about these scenarios for just a second . . .
Your partner or best friend has lied to you about something and they’ve confessed and said they were sorry.
Your child has broken something that was important to you.
Your colleague went behind your back and took credit for a project you were managing and had been diligently working on.
If we say “it’s ok” it actually implies “It’s all good and it’s fine if you do it again.”
Most of the time when someone apologizes to us, while we do accept their apology, we would prefer them not to do that action again. Thus, maybe instead of “it’s ok” we say, “I appreciate the apology.” “I accept the apology.” “I hear you.”
The next time I picked up my phone I had a text from my partner. All it said was, “Just know I love you.”
It was the most beautiful way to accept my apology.
What can you say to the people in your life that you love today to show them that you accept their apology? Words and actions bring healing and hope.
Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry. Don’t go to bed angry. Don’t let evil have that kind of foothold in your life.