If the Apology Fits…Make It.

forgiving-resizedBy Donna Shea

Making apologies seems to have been a running theme for me during the beginning of the school year. Like everyone else, I am human. I make mistakes, drop a detail, lose my patience or misunderstand something and react poorly. Fortunately, I am a natural diplomat and a person for whom making an apology comes fairly easily. I can reflect on a situation, see my role in the problem and take responsibility for my contribution. Even when I am not completely in the wrong or know that my heart was in the right place in a situation, I find that acknowledging and apologizing for how the other person feels goes a long way in smoothing things over. It usually opens the door to a very productive conversation and positive outcome.

Making amends does not come easily to everyone. Helping kids see their contribution and responsibility in a conflict is a major part of the work that I do in social skills groups. There are kids that struggle mightily and who cannot see that he or she is his or her own worst enemy in peer interactions. I find myself frequently pointing out and saying to a child “if you find yourself in frequent conflicts in different places and with different people, that the common denominator just might be you and it’s something we can work on together.”

Apologies have been the subject of a couple of our posts. There are kids who go to far in the opposite direction and apologize too much. Nadine wrote a post, The Chronic Apologizer, that addresses the need for and tendency to over-apologize as well as using apologies as an avoidance tactic. These kids need help in understanding the difference between an accident versus something that was done deliberately or on purpose. I also wrote a post back in July, Put Your Change Where Your Mouth Is, that talks about the six different types of apologies, how only one of them is sincere and that an apology without changing your behavior is meaningless.

I am not sure why I felt the need to write another post on apologies. Maybe because it is one of the skills that comes hardest to us. Maybe it is because I’ve had to offer apologies to others myself in recent weeks. Maybe because I feel that being able to find the delicate balance between being right and saving a relationship is something many of us find so difficult to do. Whether I feel I am right or I am wrong (and usually it’s never that clear cut), if I have made another person feel upset, angry, hurt or diminished in any way and the apology fits…I will make it.