The Power of an Apology
To me saying I’m sorry (and actually meaning it) is one of the best and quickest ways I know to defuse and disarm a situation. It is among the most valuable tools I use, whether I’m at home, in the workplace, or traveling. It takes less than ten seconds. It clears the air like a late-afternoon shower. It signals to another person that you understand his or her viewpoint, and you acknowledge that your own viewpoint maybe wasn’t the best one at the time. It helps everybody move forward.
Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t necessarily about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about taking responsibility for a situation that is threatening to spill out of control. You can defuse most small misunderstandings with an immediate apology. On the other hand, I’ve found that if you have a larger dispute or disagreement with anyone, from a colleague to a spouse to a live-in partner, there is no use poisoning a situation with uncontrolled emotion. Instead, wait a day or two, and you’ll find you may approach the source of the problem differently. If I’m upset at someone, I might wait four or five days before bringing up the subject again. By then, our tempers have cooled down, and both our egos are willing to revisit the source of the argument in a more reasonable way.
Make sure you understand the difference between an apology that’s sincere and one that’s insincere. Are you saying “I’m sorry” because you actually feel remorseful? Check your intentions, and if they’re pure, issue an apology from the heart: “I’m sorry I messed up. The last thing I ever want to do is upset you, and I will make sure this never happens again”