Parenting brings with it many wonders. If you're reading this post and sick of hearing about what i've learned being a parent to a four year old with another on the way, I understand. Go read some other swimming blog.
Today I was talking with a new friend and hearing about a bad apology, which, lets be honest, there are a lot of out there. Apologies are kind of a brutally simple art that most of us, including me, screw up all the time.
This is where the four year old comes in. My daughter is unfazed by my lack of skill at apologizing, and she endeavors to redirect me to the right path, time and time again.
I'm Sorry, I Did It
I ripped a bandaid off of her leg a couple of weeks ago. I objectively know the universal truth that ripping off a bandaid is much better than slowly tearing it away. I also know she never would have let me slowly remove it, and it had been on for too long anyway and needed to come off.
None of that matters in the context of the fact that the ripping off surprised her and hurt. She was crying and angry with me.
"I'm sorry I ripped that off and hurt you" I said. Had I stopped right there I might have pulled off an effective apology. But instead I plowed ahead to the justifications above. Her teary reply came swiftly back:
"You ripped it off and i didn't want you to rip it off and you hurt me". Again, a simple redirect. One can only hope for as much honesty from many adults about how ineffective your apology was. Just stick to the fact that you are sorry and that you recognize that your action hurt someone else.
I pleaded my case another time, got redirected again, and finally arrived where I should have rested in the first place.
Plenty of Opportunities
Luckily we all make plenty of mistakes, so there are plenty of opportunities to improve your apology technique.
Apologies, despite the negative association of having to admit that you did something wrong, are great opportunities to improve your relationship with somebody by showing them empathy. If you're a leader you can do wonders for the environment on your team by modeling effective apologies.
So find yourself someone who will do you the service of redirecting you to the heart of an apology and start improving today.