by Kathryn Magura
I screwed up. I unintentionally made someone upset. When I realized this, I had two options: 1. To ignore it and hope it would blow over, or 2. Apologize. I am a firm believer in the power of a genuine apology, so it would have been hypocritical of me to do anything other than own the situation and apologize.
As I went about correcting the wrong I had made, I started to think about the art of apology. What makes an apology authentic? Why don’t people apologize more when they make a mistake? In my experience, an apology can do wonders to resolve a situation – especially when emotions are involved. But alas, people so infrequently utilize the art of apology. Why is that? Pride? Stubbornness? I’m hard-pressed to believe that people are oblivious to the ways they hurt others. Have we just gotten to a point in our society where we don’t give a damn about each other?
When I feel wronged, I usually feel much better if someone makes an authentic apology. I don’t even need to have things turned around in my favor to feel better, I simply need someone to take ownership over the fact that I now feel hurt by them either directly or indirectly. If I am receiving customer service, I don’t necessarily want “Joe Person” on the phone to apologize (unless Joe hurt me. If he did, we’re now at odds), but I do want him to empathize with my situation and help me find resolution. Similarly, if I’m talking to a parent who is upset about something their student is experiencing on campus, I’m going to own the situation even if I’m not actually responsible for it. That person feels enough about this experience to call and complain, and I owe them the courtesy of hearing them out.
So how do you all feel about the art of apology? Are you willing to apologize to others? Why do you think we don’t apologize more?