The use of an apology can prevent up to 90% of the conflicts with friends or strangers. It just may not work as well with relatives, but it will still attenuated strains significantly.
An apology must not be used exclusively when you make a mistake, but rather when anyone makes a mistake.
If someone bumps into you in the subway. You are certain that it was the other person’s fault, however you say: “I’m sorry”. The other person will likely apologize too! Or, if the other person is convinced that it was your fault, they may say “it’s ok”.
The short, and long, term heath gains resulting from the avoidance a conflict with strangers, with friends or relatives is priceless.
Therefore I would suggest that everyone should attempt to re-educate their relationship with apologies.
You possibly learned that apologies are necessary only when others make mistakes. It is their responsibility to apologize.
Another great suggestion is to avoid at all costs saying something like “Did you not understand what I just said?”
Instead of this indelicate phrase, I suggest this improvement: “I am sorry. I think I did not express myself well”. [Fabs’ note: isn’t the objective of communication to be understood? If you say something and, for whatever reason, someone does not get it, I always assume it is my fault. Maybe because my work is to be a teacher, but more importantly, I feel that it is my responsibility to express myself better every day.]
What about circumstances where taking responsibility could cost you a tidy sum? For example, you could be in a traffic accident, you are certain it was the other driver’s fault! But the other driver is certain that you are at fault. … Why not apologize first and diffuse the situation? Any financial worry will be taken care by the insurance regardless.
Oooppss.. maybe you are uninsured? Well, I am afraid that this text may not be for you. I vehemently recommend that everyone has to be insured, against everything: your car, your home, your life, your health. Avoid excuses. I often hear some claim that they do not have they money for it right now. Well, that excuse just does not work. You could have bought a car marginally cheaper and insured it easily with the savings.
But what about my sense justice? How can I allow a guilty party to walk away feeling that they won? How can I sleep at night feeling wronged? How can I accept blame when I am blameless? Is this not the attitude of a coward?
On the contrary!
It definitely takes greater courage and dignity to assume culpability, but it is even greater if you assume someone else’s. This is what national saints and heroes do. They are people with a high sense of humanitarian commitment, to a point of self-sacrificing their ego and sometimes even their life.
However, before you are ready to use the strategy of apologizing, you must eliminate any guilt. This is especially relevant to people who come from countries which are former colonies. In Latin America, “desculpa-me” (excuse me) is said with humility and inferiority, while the colonizing countries use this phrase to exert superiority over the person being talked to.
In France, for example, the phrase “pardon M’sier” (the same “excuse me”) is used as a resource with someone who has been indelicate, or has had some other form of bad behavior in any circumstance. In England, and other English speaking countries, “I beg your pardon” can be used as an admonition with superiority and elegance with someone who has been impertinent or arrogant or has done something wrong.
Keep this in mind: the person who apologizes does so with their head held up high. I propose that you assume a posture of elevated self-esteem when using the ‘apology strategy’.
In doing so, you will not be humiliating or stooping yourself, on the contrary, you will be thinking to yourself: “I have controlled the situation and I dominated this brute before me. I am pleased for having been able to do it with an intelligent management of my resources. In the cost vs. benefit equation, I have saved time and stress, and finally I have been elegant to a person who may be useful in the future. “
[Original text by DeRose, translated and interpreted by Fabs].