A few weeks ago I started receiving calls from a private number. The first time the person just confirmed it was me and then the line disconnected. Who could it be? Perhaps I had come into a large inheritance? Could it be Oprah calling to tell me what a good job I was doing with these articles? Eventually the mystery caller identifies himself as a person I had dated before I met my husband. For real? It's you? So you're not from Oprah?
Needless to say, I wasn't exactly elated especially since the relationship hadn't ended on a good note and here he was, telling me he wasn't from Oprah. He had called to apologize (a couple of years too late, I thought) " I just want to apologise because I offended you. I want to be sure I'm forgiven" Of course, I had forgiven him and forgotten long ago and a loving husband and lovely daughter after- I'm probably glad we parted. After all, to err is human and to forgive is divine.
We all make mistakes, some more than others - but who's counting? Some mistakes are minor, and don't make much of a difference, while some mistakes hurt other people and have to be dealt with quickly and completely. Over the course of my life, I have made so many mistakes I should have one named after me, but I have tried to learn from them. It is always better not to add to the mistake already made by ignoring it in the hopes that it will go away. It never does. Whether you've messed up at work or forgotten your spouse's birthday, ignoring the failure won't make it seem less important; it will only further tarnish your image. Be straightforward. Directly and briefly, but honestly, acknowledge that you messed up. State specifically what you did and how much you regret it. It's as simple as that, only our ego often gets in the way. If we could humbly put aside our pride our relationships would be much easier- with less awkward silences and loud arguments.
Unfortunately, the automatic response of human nature is to jump into self-defence mode; we find it hard to acknowledge our own shortcomings. There are always extenuating circumstances, and most of us don't mean to mess up. But all the good intentions don't change the fact that you've made a mistake. Don't point fingers or use circumstances to make an excuse; doing so only makes you sound like you care more about getting out of trouble than really dealing with the problem you've caused.
Finally, those two little words — I'm sorry — need to be heard by the person who's bearing the brunt of your mistake. It shows that you understand this person has a choice of whether or not to forgive the mistake. It acknowledges that you need forgiveness. It lays the responsibility on the offended person, to either accept the apology, and thus, start moving on, or choose to ignore or refuse your apology and leave you with nothing else to do. Nobody really wants to be the bad guy and refuse to accept an apology. If you don't verbally, directly apologize, however, the person who has been hurt doesn't have to make that choice to forgive and move on.
And then of course, there are those people who keep saying sorry and keep making the same mistakes...sigh...I think I'll just leave that topic for Oprah.