Reality Check: Apologies, Demands, and Power

An apology is often an effective response when someone has been wronged. Yet, there are also unsatisfying apology scenarios where someone—the victim, the offender, or both—walk away feeling, well…unsatisfied. You know something is still not OK, even if you can’t quite put a finger on what it is.

Does an apology make things right? Here are two cases where you can decide whether an apology is the answer.

  • The first case:  “I demand an apology”

Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking, “You’ve wronged me and you should apologize”?

If you do receive an apology in response to your demand, does it reflect a truly apologetic spirit? Does your offender really regret their action? Or given the same circumstances, would they do it again?

There are cases where folks feel strongly that they cannot get over an incident or move on unless they get an apology. Sometimes that need for an apology is from a person whom they perceive to have wronged them. In other cases, institutions or entire cultures are perceived to have committed the wrong.

How effective is the choice to demand an apology? When you  hold the perception that someone else must do something before you can feel satisfied, where have you put your power? Out of your hands, and into someone else’s!

Effectively, making your personal satisfaction contingent on an apology allows someone other than you to control your happiness. Is that really what you want?

  • The second case: “I said I was sorry, move on”

Here, the person who has committed the offense believes that an apology should wipe the slate clean. There’s an implied expectation: “I apologized; you should forgive me, forget it, and carry on as if nothing happened.”

However, as the wronged party, you may not want to “get over it.” That’s your choice. An apology does not take away your power to be angry, hurt, sad, disappointed, or whatever.

On the other hand, if you have been wronged and you choose to continue holding on to one of those negative feelings, here is a question to consider: Is that choice working well for you? Only you can decide.

If you want to change that feeling and haven’t figured out how to do so, then you may want to seek out someone who can provide information to help you. But the choice—to change or not to change—is yours.

The common theme in both of these cases is the “you should” attitude, which is pretty much opposite to choice theory. Just because someone says, “You should forgive me,”  “You should stop grieving,” or even, “You should eat more broccoli,” doesn’t mean you “should!”

For both cases, the choice to forgive is one way to bring power back into the hands of the person who has been wronged. When you recognize for yourself, “I choose to no longer spend my energy dwelling on what you have done,” forgiveness can become an empowering act.

What do you think of the world of apologies? 

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