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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Power of Apologies, Part III (Family/Friends)

This is Part III of a 3-part series I've written on the Power of Apologies. Click here to read Part I and Part II.

Today's post is about the Power of Apologies in regard to relationships with family and friends. I find this part the most difficult of the three because of the parties involved. As people say, we treat the ones we love the worst.

Of course, there are the "amiable" people in relationships who go straight to "I'm sorry" as soon as there's any conflict because they just can't stand it. I don't think they're part of this discourse today.

I'm thinking more of the person who either chooses to get mad because someone is upset with them ("you have no right to be upset with me so I'm going to be mad at you") or kind of feels apathy toward the situation ("You're upset with me for what I did? That's OK. You'll get over it.").

So, when we mess up personally, why is it that we often withhold the apology from those we care for the most? Maybe it's easier to apologize at work or with customers because we know there can be serious ramifications if we don't. Maybe we're tired of being nice to other people all day and don't think we should have to do it with our loved ones, too. Of course, there's the "familiarity breeds contempt" argument where, the better we know people, the more likely we are to see their faults; so why should we have to put up with anything from them?

I was speaking to my wife about the subject this morning and she said she would just love to hear, "you're right and I'm sorry." My best attempt at that is to often say, "you know it's your fault" to which my wife has finally learned to respond, "I know, because it can't be yours." I think it's funny (sort of) and is a way for me to say I'm sorry without admitting it. Needless to say that she just puts up with my "witty banter" and shakes her head. What she'd rather hear is"that was my fault and I'm sorry."

We certainly appreciate it when someone admits responsibility and apologizes (especially if they do so before we have to point it out). I'm sure we know how to use the power of apology at work and with customers so, perhaps, we just need to get in the habit of using that same power with the ones we care for the most. The key here is to be respectful of the people closest to us and exhibit awareness regarding our actions and words when we disagree or we mess up.

I'll keep working at it. What about you?

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