The Power of Apology

One of the hardest acts for humans is to tender an unconditional apology to a person whom we hurt intentionally or unintentionally.

The irony of life is that when people are younger, they would say ‘I’m sorry’ very easily, when parents tell them to do so, even if the purpose of apologizing is not understood.

During childhood, a little sister would immediately apologize to her brother if she pushed her younger brother out of jealousy just because he gets a lot of attention from the parents. If she did not apologize, her parents will keep reminding her.

As people grow up though, apologizing becomes harder, because ego comes into play.

Most people tell themselves ‘Why should I apologize ?  It was her fault’.

But seriously, I wonder, how hard is it to apologize ?

There are times when we travel down memory lane and think of all the conversations we had with people, and the people we hurt unintentionally,  we realize ‘Aah ! I shouldn’t have said that’. The thought of apologizing is lingering in your mind, but to say those two words becomes so difficult.

It takes a lot of courage to say ‘sorry’.  But the word ‘Sorry’ is not just another word if spoken with a clean heart and good intention.

Words have power. Once you say ‘sorry’ with good intention, it melts heart. The giver feels lighter when the apology is accepted. However, that is not the intention. Apology is to ensure the receiver feels better, not the giver.

People do not realize that each and every word in any language not only has meaning but a lot of power to affect our brain and hence mood and our emotions.

Family disputes is common in most households. For some reason, either of your parents, or both, are not in talking terms with their siblings due to some arguments in childhood. If you ask them the reason, you will find the reason is too childish to even tell anyone. As a result, you are not meant to be talking to your cousins because both parents are not talking.

An apology from either families could have closed the matter. But people like to continue living with pride and ego and won’t make any effort to patch up.

Both families do meet someday – typically, at a funeral. It’s too late to apologize then.

In romantic relationships, couples exchange every word in the dictionary except ‘Sorry’. When the relationship settles down, abuses become a daily routine, volume becomes louder. There is a competition – who speaks the ugliest word.

It only takes effort from one of them to take initiative. In fact, a ‘Sorry’ greeting card is even more romantic that couples must make it a point to exchange one card at least at the end of every month.

If your friend has cut off relationship with you just because you took her for granted, now is the time to apologize. From all the interactions you had with your friend, your gesture of apology will have a profound impact and will be remembered in years to come.

I recall one instance at work when one of my colleague accused me of not doing something in the presence of my client. Later, he went back to his desk and found out that I had e-mailed him, but he did not get a chance to read my e-mail. The same evening he sent me an e-mail apologizing and copied the client in that mail. It was a great gesture, especially because the organization otherwise had a blame culture.

Learning to apologize must start in childhood. Parents must educate children and show them by example in what situations their kids must say sorry to anyone they hurt. Even better, parents must apologize too if they made any hurtful remarks like calling their daughter ‘ugly’ or their son ‘lazy’.

It’s best to apologize when the wound has healed. When the person you hurt is ready for your apology.

Apologizing doesn’t make you less of a human. In fact, people who apologize for their error of judgment are respected.

We must all make a practice to apologize. There are times, we don’t realize how we may have hurt people. A sincere, heart-felt e-mail or even better a call to apologize will never hurt anyone’s ego.

How about making apology mandatory for every individual – just like income-tax returns ? One step closer towards a peaceful and harmonious world.

Just a thought !!

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