Someone once asked me this question.
I just looked at them, mouth dropped open…
Okay, not really. But I was a bit shocked by the question. But then upon thinking, I can understand. When it comes to apologizing, there’s a lot involved, there’s pride, there’s principle… and there’s… well, pride.
I think once you realized you did something wrong or you hurt someone, I would hurry and apologize immediately.
However, there is the occasional situation where you feel that you didn’t do anything wrong, but the other person thought you did something wrong, then what? Give a phony apology just to hold them over and appease them? Or just shut your mouth and refuse to apologize as you watch them writhe in pain and anger?
If you know you did wrong, but you’re just holding back your apology, I would ask, why? Is it because you don’t want to seem submissive? So that you’ll hold out a bit before giving in and apologizing. But during that wait, if you really care about this person, your mother, your friend, your boyfriend, etc… would you really want them to conitnue to hold a grudge or stay upset at you? Would you really want them to continue to allow nasty feelings to fester and grow and become nasty mold?
If you know you’ve done wrong, don’t wait to apologize. Apologize immediately.
However, if you’re not sure what you did wrong… Then hang on a sec.
In the case that the other person just blew up at you, and you have NO IDEA what happened/what you did:
1. Make sure you clarify. Are they really angry at you? And was it something you did? Or are they upset about something else, but you just got caught in crossfire? Or perhaps their already upset about something, and you just made it worse.
Figure out if you: have whole responsibility, share partial responsibility, or have no responsibility.
Why should you clarify? Well, it clears up if you’re involved or not in the anger. If so, then contnue to step 2. If not, then you can help the other person clearly see that by displacing their anger onto you (though it has nothing to do with you) is NOT a solution and it’s also hurtful for you.
2. If you are somehow involved, find out how. How were you involved. What is it that caused them to be upset. When you casually made a comment, was it the comment that made them upset? or was it the tone of voice? or was it the attitude behind? or supposedly something that they interpreted as being negative and insinuating?
3. Once you find out what got them fuming, ask yourself: is that true? Was your tone really way off? Did you mean what you said sincerely or with malice or touch of humor or acidic sarcasm? Figure out what you meant. And clarify with them. And if you’re wrong? Then apologize.
What does it mean you’re wrong:
You didn’t mean it to be negative, but somehow they interpreted it negatively. Even after you explain, they still explain that it hurt, then apologize, because (hopefully) you never meant to hurt them.
But if you feel justified in what you said, and you were intentional with the choice of your tone and attitude, etc, and they didn’t misunderstand a single thing of your statement… then perhaps you guys need to talk about it. You don’t have to apologize for having a different opinion. You don’t need to change your opinion just so it matches theirs. But it’s best to discuss it (reasonably and civilly). So next time when something similar occurs, you’ll be able to understand a little bit more what they think and why they think that way, and they’ll be able to understand you a bit more, too!