Updated: Sep 11
Do you easily give an apology or do you deflect the mistake elsewhere?
I read a book on civility that talked about today's society and the trouble it has with apologies. An apology means we must recognize that a mistake was made. And for many, this is difficult.
Many times, where an apology is needed, blame is inserted instead. For example: if you bump into someone you could say "I'm sorry" (an apology)
or you could say "watch where you are going" (blame)
"My balance is off today" (excuse)
An apology is not an excuse, or an explanation. It is a heartfelt recognition that you made a mistake and didn't mean to effect anyone badly.
It's not just about the apology
Giving an apology is definitely a good thing to do. But learning why the apology was needed and then working toward not repeating the mistake is even better. When we reflect on what we did that caused the problem and we work on not repeating it so we don't cause that same harm again, it can mean more to someone than the apology itself.
This idea of reflect, not deflect will be the underlying theme in the Woods of Wonder book Apologies of the Abominables.
Visit the Kindness Kangaroo Project page on the website to find out more about the Woods of Wonder series, and the other books made with the help of kids!
Apologies and mistakes are not about being right or wrong. They are about respecting someone enough to understand their feelings and recognize when you have hurt them.
It is helpful to ask questions about the situation so that the feelings felt at the time are recognized - what were you feeling when you smacked your brother?
And the feelings of the other person can be recognized and understood. - how do you think your brother felt after you smacked him?
then continue the understanding with questions like - what could you do to make this situation better? - maybe an apology or a hug, helping to fix something if it broke or clean up if a mess was made.
what might you do next time you feel (insert the emotion they said they felt)?
Now a child can understand what triggered their action, how the other person felt and how to make amends. This will lead to making better choices next time and not having to repeat the apology. An apology isn't a license to make mistakes but a tool to help us not repeat those mistakes.
Here is a cool activity from Counselor Chelsey to help kids understand what is needed with a true apology.
The Way I See You is a book about a young girl's struggle with an eating disorder. As the story progresses you understand that what she feels didn't come from just her but was built out of words and actions of others. When she receives an apology letter it is the start of her healing journey.
This book is available in ebook or print and geared to ages 12-14.
"Apologizing does not always mean you’re wrong and the other person is right. It just means you value your relationship more than your ego."
Part of apologizing is understanding feelings. In the How Do You Really Feel post I delve into understanding emotions.