Why do you apologise? For me, apologising is meant to be an expression of regret, or a way of making amends. But my social faces have managed to get involved, and often my apologising is just appropriate noise. I’ve even taught our children to make the noise – it’s quicker and easier than demanding sincerity. Besides, truly apologising means we have to engage our emotions, and it takes conscious thought and time to make sure the children are doing that.
“Yeeoooow!” screamed the Owl, grabbed his arm and began to rub it.
“I’m sorry,” muttered the Hare and ran out of the room.
“Hang-on,” I said, “Come back here. How would you feel if someone hurt your arm?”
“Not good. It would hurt.”
“How does your brother feel then?”
“I’m sorry,” the Hare said again, this time with sincerity, “I was in a hurry and I bumped you by mistake.”
“Thank-you for apologising,” replied the Owl.
Children have an inbuilt BS*T detector, they can tell when anything a person says is insincere – including apologies; when they frequently experience fake-apologies, they learn to be insincere themselves. And I’m tired of hearing our children apologise without meaning what they say – it often seems like a get out of jail free card. That’s why I’ve started taking the time to engage the perpetrator’s emotions.
1. Stop. (Ensure eye-contact is fully engaged.)
2. How would you feel…
3. How do you think X feels…
It’s only by imagining themselves in the position of the other, that a true apology can be given. That’s apologising with integrity – not because society tells us it’s the right thing to do.
Along the same lines, I have never expected a child who has been hurt, physically or emotionally to say, “That’s OK” or “That’s alright”…to an apology, often it’s not OK or alright – so why say it? An acknowledging, “Thank-you for apologising” is polite, without loss of integrity.
I’m also conscious of not apologising unless I really mean it. Children mimic us in all we do – sadly, they don’t just copy what we’d like them to copy. Usually, the few times I find myself in a conflict situation, it’s more important to stand my ground than it is to appear ‘nice’.
Living a life of integrity is important to me, which means ditching the social faces and being true to myself. No more insincere apologies.
So, what does apologising mean to you?
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