The power of an apology

Posted: October 31, 2017 in Miscellaneous
Tags: , , ,

Recently, I had two experiences with apologies, one bad, the other good.  The “bad” was one I wasn’t able to give.  My manager at work called to tell me another employee had complained about me.  She wouldn’t tell me who complained or what the complaint was about, which I to some extent understand.  But that robbed me of the opportunity to know how to change and also the chance to apologize to the person who complained.  I couldn’t think of any event that might have caused it and I felt bad for several days.

The second experience was something hurtful said to me, although not about me, in front of a group of friends.  Although I knew the person didn’t mean it to be hurtful, it was a remark that caused everyone else to laugh and me to retreat inside myself for the rest of the meeting and until I went to bed that night.  It’s easy to know I should just let it go, but hard to do!

The difference was that the morning after that second incident, I received an email from the person who’d made the remark, saying he shouldn’t have said what he did and asking for my forgiveness. I emailed back, saying that yes, I’d felt bad, thanking him for the apology, and accepting it.

A sincere apology, although it doesn’t take negate the initial hurt, offers the hurt person the chance to let go of the hurt and the opportunity to heal the relationship.  It may also, in the same way the healed site of a broken bone is stronger than before it broke, make the relationship stronger.  A missed chance can do the opposite.  Of course, an insincere apology adds insult to injury and even a sincere one doesn’t mean the other person will accept it, but don’t pass up the need for a heartfelt apology when you’ve wronged someone.  Even if that person doesn’t forgive you, you’ll be free to move ahead.

Comments
  1. your last sentence made me ponder about this topic… you are right… YES!

    • I’m glad you agree. 🙂 We can only control what we do and feel, not what anyone else does. Although it may hurt if they don’t accept an apology, we’ve done the right thing and can more on.

      janet

  2. yep, a lot of relationships have broken because no apology is said

  3. Dan Antion says:

    A sincere apology is like forgiveness. It’s good for both parties.

  4. JayyTee18 says:

    Very true. Love this

  5. It makes no sense for your boss to even relay the message that there was a complaint if he/she didn’t intend to let you know what you had done, if anything. There’s no possible way to rectify a situation like that. I’m sorry you had to experience that agony. And glad you were able to experience the healing from a needed apology.

  6. scr4pl80 says:

    I agree that your manager should have given you some indication of what it was that offended the other coworker even if not naming the other person. How are you expected to “change” behaviors if you don’t know what they are? Also agree that all you can do is sincerely apologize and then move on. The relationship will repair or it won’t, but you will have done all you could. Nice post, Janet

  7. Allan G. Smorra says:

    You are in a tough spot, Janet. I hope that you eventually have the opportunity to make your apology to your co-worker. They may not even be aware that your manager has not offered you the opportunity to learn and grow from your ‘mistake’.
    Ω

  8. Sherry Felix says:

    Wise words. It often takes guts to make and apology.

    • I would happily apologize to the person who felt I was being mean to them (or whatever it was), but as that chance is denied, I’ll just go on, being careful how I interact with people there.

      janet

  9. This is a difficult topic. It reminds me of the old tv show, Happy Days, when the Fonze couldn’t get out the word ‘wrong.’ We’re all wrong at certain times, and it is so much better to just step up to the plate, admit it, and apologize. I’m not sure what the first situation was suppose to do except cause you mental grief because you had no information on which to do anything differently. Shrugging that off is always easier said than done. Good share, Janet. 🙂

    • Ha, I think of the Fonze and his inability to say “I’m sorry” quite often. This situation, as my husband says, “is what it is”, and I just have to move on. I’m feeling much better about it, but the first days weren’t so good.

  10. Su Leslie says:

    I have to agree with the others about your boss Janet, and I totally agree with you about the power of apology — both to receive and to give. It’s a shame your co-worker couldn’t approach you directly. So much better for both people if it’s possible. Thinking of you. Kia Kaha.

    • It really is better that way, Su…more difficult but better and more productive. I suppose the manager is worried that the situation wouldn’t work out well in person, but that’s assuming one or both of us is too juvenile to deal with hearing the situation and dealing with the apology.

      janet

  11. Leya says:

    I agree with what is said in the comments. Hope you will get the chance to apologize. I also feel I have to give an example of something my daughter had to face – she is studying to become a dentist, and at the first uni for this they had the policy not to tell the students which books to study or what subjects were on for the next test. So, without training, they had to drill a perfect hole in a tooth. Everybody failed, but were not told WHAT was wrong or HOW to actually do it right. How can you learn then? Trial and error? She changed uni after that incident, and loves her new teachers and classes – who use other methods of teaching…
    Thank you for this thought provoking post!

    • Good grief! I was a teacher and I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous!! Who would want a dentist who had to learn by trial and error on real people. Not me. I’m glad she found somewhere better (which doesn’t seem as though it would be difficult.)

      janet

  12. joey says:

    I think it’s a total waste to tell someone they’ve upset another without addressing how. What a fruitless endeavor. There’s no room for growth from that. That’s not constructive in the least. If that happened to me, I’d feel like I couldn’t talk to anyone at work about anything and that’s not helpful, either.
    I’m now questioning the management at your work…

    Anyway, you’re right, of course, apologies are crucial for both parties.

    • Yeah, I know. I’ve moved on, but you can bet I’m much more guarded around people at work, although I have an idea of who might have complained or at least from which group. Ahh, well. Nothing more I can do but move on.

      janet

  13. Oh my, Janet. Sorry for your discomfort in this situation. I think we can only decide what to do in the moment. If we think about something too long it tends to become a thinking obsession.
    I find this type of situation happens to me in groups. I suppose it’s because too many want to be the captain and no one wants to be the sailor. Usually, the one who wants to be the captain doesn’t know how to lead. Speaking up can cause others to go against you as they’re followers.
    It’s a slippery slope we walk. Glad it’s been resolved. Thank you for sharing.
    Izzy 😎

  14. Joanne Sisco says:

    I have to lend my voice to everyone else’s about your manager telling you there was a problem but not willing to specify what it was. Bad managing! Bad, bad, bad.
    It’s only possible purpose would be to make you feel uncomfortable and perhaps a little paranoid going forward. That’s not managing. That’s playing power games.

  15. This was such a heart-felt post, and one that touches a sensitive corner of our hearts.. we’ve all had times when we regret things we’ve said or done, and we also have experienced being on the other end. thank you for sharing, as it will help us all – perhaps to avoid bruised feelings….

  16. Since my stroke, I have taken to heart the idea of honesty and open communication. I want people to be able to ask me anything and know I will be honest about it. That has, at times, brought up situations where it would be easier to pacify and be a bit untruthful to ease any problems. I have tried my best to bypass this and simply be open and honest. It works every time, though some are rougher than others.
    I also forgive when I know I have done something wrong. I refuse to be insincere about it.
    Thanks…good post, excellent read.
    Scott

  17. prior.. says:

    Such wisdom here and enjoyed the personal share –
    The first story irks me because these head games bother me too – and like you – I can process and understand where folks are coming from – but when they operate this way (no details and robbing us of growth or chance to make amends) it is so indicative of not seeing the health in getting to the Bottom of matters.
    I guess we could chat for hours about this – but I don’t think they realize that you would have replied with health and stature – and maybe the employee w complaint has been attacked for speaking up before and thinks it would come back to hurt them – ya know? Cos I see this a lot -many people cannot take negative feedback – and avoid it and further their comfort level with it – but sometimes the person speaking up gets attacked way worse back- ya know? They shoot the messenger.
    And the second story has left me wondering what was said 🤔lol

    • I understand the “shoot the messenger” idea and the management probably doesn’t want to take the chance that someone, or both someones, will be unhappy/attacked/angry/whatever when they’ll have to keep working together. It’s a difficult situation.

      janet

      • prior.. says:

        yes – it is difficult – but my goodness does our society need to allow for more feedback to become normal….

      • We need to be able to give negative feedback in a way that doesn’t try to annihilate the hearer and to receive it as much neutrality as possible, to separate the criticism from the person. Those are the difficult parts.

      • prior.. says:

        Well your post is super timely for me.
        There are two things that I want/need to speak up about at a place – and wanted to last June but chickened out.
        then almost did last month – two minor things – but I still find that I am pasuing (and I know God will lead me so I am not that wrestling – seriously – I know he will pull me there to do it when it is right) but this is why I mentioned they kill the messenger.
        or they get over defensive.
        and actually I did sorta mention it – because someone is in a position (volunteer) that she is bad at and when I mentioned it lightly – it was not recieved well.
        “So and so is rude to people and he might not be the best person for that role – he is aloof and curt to people.”
        the answer
        “Oh if he ever comes across that way I can tell you he never means it. He has a heart of gold.”
        ugh
        well intentionality was not a factor – and I followed up with – “I know he is awesome.. ” and yadda yadda –
        but I have a few more things to add and I really just don’t feel this leader (or this group) knows how to take constructive criticism and they overly defend the behavior or attack the comment – or get mad at the messenger – and that is why there are not more people speaking up here.
        instead – guess what.
        they leave with their feedback.
        they just meander away.
        because when there is not open dialogue it stifles growth and health.

      • That’s a tough situation. God will put you in the right place at the right time, but it might still be uncomfortable. 🙂 Perhaps He’s telling you this group isn’t right for you at this time or maybe the group will fall apart because of this problem.

      • prior.. says:

        thanks Janet – those are good things to consider.
        I will keep you posted – and thanks for this vulnerable share here (your two stories) because it allowed me to vent and it also helps raise awareness as a possible resource – cos as you know- when we comment chat or post about matters – sometimes people skim things later and learn (I say that from experience because I have been looking stuff up and sometimes Google brings me to a post or fb comment chat where people talk about the topic)

  18. prior.. says:

    Oh and doesn’t Matthew 18 say to go to the person directly ?

    • Yes, it does. 🙂 But that so rarely gets done. Mostly people just complain to someone else or to more than one person, which makes the situation worse.

      janet

      • prior.. says:

        it does make the situation worse when they complain to someone else or more than one person.
        and on a side note with the matthew 18 – we have jokes from back when this church we were at “overused” that phrase – ugh – and this one guy was like “I’m matthew 18ing it….” but he was a busy body and well – I digress

      • Ha, I understand your digression. 🙂 Besides, the more you complain, the worse you usually feel you have it, and the less likely you are to forgive and move on.

      • prior.. says:

        oh good point – it is like a faucet of negativity gets turned on

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