Get to the Heart of Your Apology: Speak to the Hurt!
The dog ate the cord to your laptop battery, which fortunately wasn’t plugged in at the time--who knows how many volts run through those things, your dog could have been twitching for hours--but meanwhile, you’re without your computer.
You have an important presentation at work in a couple of days, so you hop online to get a new battery, not happy to pay for express “next day by 9:00 a.m.” shipping, but oh well. Your spouse says, “No, don’t do that. I can run by the computer store and pick up a new battery on my way home.” How nice! Especially since given what’s already loaded into your day between kids and work, you’d be hard pressed to get to the computer store.
But when your spouse blows in that evening, late for dinner, guess what? No battery. “Honey, I’m so sorry, I forgot! I had a late meeting with the VP, nothing went right, look I’m sorry! I’m human--I forgot!” Your spouse offers to get the battery for you tomorrow, but you’re like, “No, don’t bother, I’ll get it,” and both of you spend the rest of the evening annoyed with each other.
Image: butupa via Flickr
Your spouse feels guilty, yet like he should be forgiven. After all, nobody died and he did say he was sorry. You feel abandoned, neglected, and uncared for. You now have less time to prepare your presentation, because the time you thought to work on it tonight is gone, and tomorrow morning will be eaten up by going to get the darned thing.
You start running that refrain in your head, you know, the one that says “He never remembers things that I need. He never comes through for me. I’m always the last thing on his list," which isn’t really true, but it is the way you’re feeling right now. Your spouse meanwhile, thinks you are unreasonable, unforgiving and just plain mean.
How does one begin to unravel this tangled emotional mess?
Start with an apology that actually feels like an apology. Your spouse is right-- nobody died-- and you know that you will get your presentation done, albeit with less ease than you’d like. What’s really irking you (and keeping your spouse unhappy) is a flawed apology.
You see, your spouse’s apology was all about him. Certainly, it started out with a sincere “I’m sorry” but from then on, the apology was all about his forgetfulness, his late-meeting justification, his human-ness. What the apology needed to be about was you. Your feelings, your disappointment, and your hurt.
Such an apology would have sounded something like: “Honey, I’m so sorry I forgot to pick up the battery. I know you’re disappointed, and I’ve made things harder for you. I’ve hurt your feelings and I am so sorry for that. Please tell me what I can do to make it up to you.”
Such an apology won’t get the battery from the store, but it will make things better between the two of you, emotionally. Forgiveness is a lot easier when you feel like you’ve really been heard, not just in terms of your words, but--much more importantly--in terms of how you feel.