Or how to do it properly …
I didn’t learn how to make a proper apology till very late in life. I’ve been rubbish at it for most of my life, doing the equivalent of that small child being forced to say “I’m sorry” – even when I’ve truly felt it and meant it. Now just saying “I’m sorry” is better than making no apology at all, but it’s still a long way from doing it properly.
Saying sorry properly is a skill, an art even. I believe that a proper apology must not have any caveats, ideally it expresses that you understand why and how your actions or behaviour caused hurt or upset. The other important aspect of a proper apology is that it’s also necessary you actively intend not to repeat that behaviour or action… or what’s the point? If you’ve no intention of changing, you might as well be that small child blurting out the forced words.
Something I’ve wondered is if this life skill is taught? No, I’m not suggesting that this is yet another task to delegate to overloaded teachers, but whether it’s something parents routinely do? I was never taught how to say sorry – other than the small child blurt out; I also never witnessed either of my parents demonstrate that type of apology. I know I didn’t pass any skill in that area to my daughter, as I didn’t learn it till she was an adult and had left home. I believe it’s one of the many skills she’s learned herself.
The thing is, I was brought up by nannies (it was common overseas), and my mother was brought up likewise, although much of her older childhood was spent in boarding school where she resided year round. So I learned many of my parenting skills from the parents of my friends. I saw how they did things differently to my parents (and grandparents) and filed that knowledge away in my subconscious for later use. There was a hole in the apologising skill area, as I never observed an apology being made – probably as they are usually a private matter.
Yet, the first proper apology I made was made in public. Not in front of a vast audience, but I didn’t wait until we were alone before doing it. I knew it needed to be given as soon as I was face-to-face with the person concerned, and as the offence had been committed publicly, it would be cowardly to do so in private. It was the first apology which gave me a sense of peace & closure after making it. Looking back, one regret I do have is my rubbish apologies.
What do you think constitutes a proper apology? Do you think this is a skill to actively teach our children, or is leading by example preferable and/or more effective?
© Debra Carey, 2021