Category Archives: Courtesy

Apologizing Long After the Offense

Lately, I’ve been asked quite often by callers if it is “okay” to apologize to someone for a wrongdoing even years after the offense.  I can understand why that question might be asked.  It can feel a bit embarrassing to have to face someone and face up to what you’ve done.  It is worrisome that they might not be gracious about your apology.   It is possible that they might “lay into you.”  It may be that they say “You caused me so much grief and pain that I can’t forgive you.”  They might not even be willing to talk to you.  Or, they might say, with tears, “Thank you.  That means a lot to me.”

It IS a big risk to take.  But the most valued things in life do come with a big risk attached.  That’s part of what gives them value.

You must remember, however, that whatever their response might be, you are doing the apology not to wipe the slate clean (damage is damage, and some never goes away), but because true repentance requires that you do what it takes to repair the damage.  That includes the sincere…sincere…apology.  None of that “if you were hurt, then I’m sorry” nonsense.  That is pure annoyance!
So, if you truly have remorse (and are not just trying to manipulate someone into a situation which benefits you), then apologize…anytime…and tolerate their first and maybe second unpleasant reaction. 
Seeds take time to germinate, and coping with an apology means the whole thing is brought up again in their minds.  Be patient and understanding.  While they may never forgive you, know that you still did the right thing.

Conversation vs. Confrontation

Let’s talk about having conversations.  You read that right – I didn’t goof and actually mean confrontation, which typically is what I hear most about on my radio program.  It is not a good plan to think of trying to communicate something delicate or important to someone by approaching them through the lenses of battle, which is what confrontation implies.

There are ways to deal with another person on difficult issues that don’t necessarily feel like the throwing down of a gauntlet (an attack against which they have to be defensive).  The moment you get someone’s defenses up, the quicker the whole situation degenerates into a “lose/lose” predicament, usually making things even worse than they were.

If the information is to a loved one, start out with a “Sweetie” or “Honey” or something that sets the tone as one of friendship, love or caring.  Continue with the explanation that it is to improve the situation that you’re coming to them (because you don’t want the relationship hurt by misunderstandings or errors in judgment or word choice).   Then they know that you are not attacking them, but you are trying to preserve the relationship and they will be more open to hearing your point of view.

It’s also important to start out with some verbal “gift,” i.e., that you compliment them with sincerity by suggesting that you understand what their position might be, but that you’re confused, hurt, upset or worried that ________ [fill in the blank].  Remind them what you’ve meant to each other and how you want that to continue, and that this is a glitch which can be remedied with mutual consideration and understanding.

If you’re up against a reasonable, caring individual, things will go well. 

If you’re up against an unreasonable, self-centered human being, things will go well if you walk away.

Rule number “PRE-one:”  Don’t wait for emotions to fester.  Handle things as they happen before you work yourself up to the point that you can’t be reasonable.

Forgiving the Thoughtlessness of Others

The other day, someone made an honest comment to me about a gift I gave them – a rude comment, but an honest one.

This is the sort of circumstance I hear about a lot on my radio program.  Callers get very upset about some small moment of discomfort, stupidity, rudeness, thoughtlessness – you get my drift.  It sends them into a tizzy, because I guess they yearn for this perfect world where everyone else’s behavior conforms to what it is that makes them happy.

People are largely busy with their own lives, and they don’t always monitor their mouths or body language.  Sometimes, they’re prone to say things without consideration of how it might be received.

So, back to my story – I just laughed.  Look, my feelings can get hurt just like yours.  But since I am “Dr. Laura,” and because I have the experience of over six decades on the planet, I have learned to choose what will annoy me.  When you have friends and acquaintances, you have to  1) cut everyone some “stupidity slack” once in a while (as you would have them forgive you);  2) look at the totality of that person and realize that, percentage-wise, they’re “fine,” and 3) decide whether or not their action was intentionally meant to do you harm or was just a quirk of their personality.

When someone is downright evil, please avoid them.

When someone is simply a bit thoughtless of others, then put them in their place…in your mind, that is.  Know that they have this “quirky-ness” and in the future, don’t have expectations for them that are out-of-proportion.

You can still be friendly, and even be friends, once you accept their limitations.

So, if you don’t have a “goat” to get, they can’t get your goat!