Stuff happens. We make bad decisions. We do stupid stuff. Sometimes it all ends with us having to apologize for being dumb or just not thinking straight at that moment.
So, we apologize.
For a while now I’ve been watching people do stupid stuff, apologizing, but those who are receiving the apology are not accepting it. Instead, they refuse to accept the apology and something weird happens. Everything just stops.
I get that you might not feel that an apology is enough. You want more. You want ‘justice’ of some kind. You might feel the apology isn’t authentic. For sure, that’s all possible.
Here’s the thing: Just because you accept an apology, doesn’t mean you are okay with what happened.
Accepting allows you and the other party to actually keep moving in the direction of positive interaction. Closing that down and stopping that movement does nothing for anyone. You’re still upset, the other party is still upset and doesn’t know what to do to help the situation, and we are now moving backward with the relationship.
One problem that happens frequently is that someone tries to apologize too soon. You are upset and not in a position to want to accept it. At the same time the person does want you to know they are apologetic for what happened, and while you might not be ready, it’s good to accept the apology and tell them “thank you for that, I’m not ready to talk about this just yet, can we do this another time?”
99% of the time this will work and buy you the time you need to work through it and get yourself into a better position to actually discuss or determine your course of action.
Every apology we get we have to put into context. Is this about the other person, is this about ourselves, or is it about both? Sometimes someone does something not even thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves and probably someone else, and you get caught in friendly fire that no one thought of. Doesn’t change the ultimate ending and it still sucks, and you still need an apology.
It’s really hard for me, personally, to not apologize if I think I’ve done something wrong. I want to work on fixing it immediately! It drives my wife crazy sometimes. I want immediate fixing and she might just need to digest what happened and determine what she needs. At that moment, it might not be an apology, it might just be some space.
Communication is a two-way street. Both sides have something to say and something they are trying to do. We live in this modern world where people have decided that it’s not okay to screw up, but we “celebrate failure”, and you can apologize, but I won’t accept it. Um, what?
Life is hard. Let people apologize. Accept it. If that’s not enough for you, let them know. If you want to end the relationship, and an apology isn’t enough, let them know that as well.