45. “Sorry” Is Only the Beginning

Good morning and welcome to your forty-fifth meditation. Imagine that you are engaged in a heated argument. You feel yourself becoming frustrated and angry. You can observe yourself being swept up in this powerful and acute emotional energy, and yet are unable to stop it. You even know that these emotions can give you an inflated sense of conviction of your own rectitude and of the utter injustice of the other party’s argument. And yet, in that moment, those convictions are the realest things you know. And you let the other party know it too. You may be the type to lay out all the reasons they are wrong and you are right in a torrent of words. Or perhaps you incline toward silence in these situations, shutting down and blocking the other person out. Of course, neither of these methods is an overly effective means of persuading them of your argument. Rather, this approach is more likely to hurt or offend, than help. 

But don’t worry. We all lose our cool sometimes. That’s just part of being human. The important thing is that we then take responsibility for it. To do this, saying sorry is a good place to start. But “sorry” is only the very beginning of a true apology. A true apology means that you genuinely understand that you got carried away, that you exaggerated, that you weren’t completely fair, or that you made a mistake, whatever the case may be. A true apology means acknowledging these missteps openly to the other party. A true apology may contain some explanation, but does not contain excuses. Ask yourself, who is benefitting from your explanation? Does it offer the other party some valuable insight that helps to clarify the reason for the dispute, and helps to avoid such disputes in the future? Or does it offer you some kind of defense or immunity? If it’s the latter, nix it. You will only be undermining your apology by simultaneously trying to defend the very thing you are apologizing for.

Beware if you are the type that shies away from confrontation. It’s easy to convince ourselves that we were wrong just to get out of being in a fight. Although this little manoeuvre may spare us discomfort in the moment, to do so is a betrayal of oneself. It is inauthentic, and will likely lead to some problematic relationship dynamics in the future.

Instead, give yourself space and time to settle down. Consider what was said and how it made you feel. Consider how you imagine the other person feels. Ask yourself if you went too far, or if you didn’t go far enough. Be fair. To the other person, and to yourself. If your interlocutor is worth your time, not only will your sensitivity and candour be a balm to cool the heat of the conflict, it will also set a precedent to inspire regular openness of this kind in your relationship. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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