What if you thought of the act of apologizing—
not as admitting that you were
wrong—but as a mature choice that
you get to make to reconnect with
someone you love.
Just to be clear—I do know people who are chronically apologetic—that’s not what I am talking about. I’m talking about consciously and deliberately choosing to apologize and not making a big deal out of it.
Recently my husband and I ruffled our feathers a bit. This is rare but it can happen. It was a small ruffle, but nevertheless a ruffle. During a conversation about my father’s dementia, Jake made a suggestion that I too quickly determined wasn’t “right” for the situation and I said so.
He ended up feeling cut off, unheard and unappreciated. He was just trying to help and I wasn’t acknowledging what he had to say. He prickled and I fluffed.
We distanced ourselves for a short while. I felt I was “right.” He felt unheard. In the old days of our marriage, this distance could have lasted a day or more. The disconnection then, though uncomfortable, was perceived as easier than admitting we were wrong.
But, now, when I feel disconnected from him, I ask myself, “Would I rather connect or be ‘right’?” I decided to connect.
In order to connect, I would have to give up being “right” and do my best to understand what he was feeling. Well, that was pretty easy—I’ve had practice.
My next step was to go to Jake and say, “I want to redo myself. I don’t ever want you to think that I don’t value your opinion. I really value what you have to say, actually more so than anyone I have ever known. So, I am sorry that I didn’t really listen and acknowledge what you had to say.”
Please note that I did not make excuses for myself, I just apologized.
Afterward, I didn’t feel the pang of admitting I was wrong. Instead, I felt the joy of being mature enough to apologize. I maturely chose not to pout or be righteous. I still didn’t think his opinion was “right” in that particular case, but that wasn’t the point. The point was about him feeling appreciated and listened to. Of course I want him to feel that. He’s my best friend. And so we reconnected immediately.
The key is to ask myself if I want to connect and if the answer is “yes,” then I go for a “ReDo.” Apologizing and reconnecting is pretty easy these days.
A wonderful cartoon in the New Yorker magazine of a couple of issues ago — scene is Medieval castle, King on horseback with sword, shield and spear, banners flying, long line of armored soldiers afoot following behind by twos. One of the soldiers in front says to the one beside him: “I hear it’s because we’re right and they’re wrong.”