Saturday, April 26, 2014

This is Just to Say

I have eaten 
the plums 
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving for 
Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

~William Carlos Williams, This Is Just To Say, 1962

   Earlier this year I started reading a book on apologizing.  The Five Languages of Apology was written by the same guy (Gary Chapman, with Jennifer Thomas) that wrote The Five Love Languages.  In his intro he proposes that many marriages could have been saved if the partners had learned how to apologize to one another.  It seems to be a common problem that even though the offending partner apologizes, the other partner is unable to hear and therefore accept it.  Chapman suggests couples need to learn to apologize to each other in the other person's language of apology.

   I've had a window open on my desktop for about three weeks now.  It's a blog entry that a school teacher wrote about teaching children how to apologize.  In it she suggests that hardly anyone is teaching children the correct way to say they're sorry.  A parent or teacher will say, "Say sorry to your brother," to which the child replies, "Sorry," and that's it.  It reminds me of another saying I heard as a child, "Well, sorry doesn't fix it."  Which is true.  Sorry doesn't fix it.  The blogger writes,
...inside, however... the offended still feels bitter, because the apology was not sincere. And while it may seem like the offender got off easy– not even having to show proper remorse or use a sincere tone–he is actually the one who loses out the most. He not only learns a poor lesson that he can get away with lies and empty words, but does not have the opportunity to experience true reconciliation and restoration of relationships.
   When I read her article, I knew immediately that I wanted to write about it for my own blog.  After all, I've been on the receiving end of these sorry sorrys, and I did still feel bitter because the apology wasn't sincere.  And in fairness, I'm sure my sorrys have been lackluster at times as well.  I'm sure we would all do well to brush up on our ability to say we've done something wrong.  And who knows, maybe it'll save a few relationships as well.

   Here then are her tips on a better way to say you're sorry (I've taken these from her blog and I recommend you surf over there to read her whole article):

1) I’m sorry for…: Be specific. Show the person you’re apologizing to that you really understand what they are upset about. 
       Wrong: I’m sorry for being mean.       Right: I’m sorry for saying that nobody wants to be your friend.

2) This is wrong because…: This might take some more thinking, but this is one of the most important parts. Until you understand why it was wrong or how it hurt someone’s feelings, it’s unlikely you will change. This is also important to show the person you hurt that you really understand how they feel. I can’t tell you how much of a difference this makes! Sometimes, people want to feel understood more than they want an apology. Sometimes just showing understanding– even without an apology– is enough to make them feel better!

       Wrong: This is wrong because I got in trouble.
       Right: This is wrong because it hurt your feelings and made you feel bad about yourself.

3) In the future, I will…: Use positive language, and tell me what you WILL do, not what you won’t do. 
       Wrong: In the future, I will not say that.
       Right: In the future, I will keep unkind words in my head.

Now let’s practice using positive language. It’s hard at first, but you’ll get better. Can anyone think of a positive way to change these incorrect statements? 
       Wrong: In the future, I won’t cut.
       (Right: In the future, I will go to the back of the line.)

       Wrong: In the future, I won’t push.
       (Right: In the future, I will keep my hands to myself.
       Wrong: In the future, I won’t take your eraser.
       (Right: In the future, I will ask you if I can borrow your eraser.
4) Will you forgive me? This is important to try to restore your friendship. Now, there is no rule that the other person has to forgive you. Sometimes, they won’t. That’s their decision. Hopefully, you will all try to be the kind of friends who will forgive easily, but that’s not something you automatically get just because you apologized. But you should at least ask for it.
So, let's see...

Dear Wife,

I'm sorry
for eating
the plums
in the icebox

that you were
probably most definitely
for breakfast

This is wrong
it was inconsiderate of me
to eat them
without asking you first

In the future
I will ask
before I eat
Will you forgive me

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