Monday, July 14, 2014

Why Apologizing is Awesome. (Part II)

This might sound weird, but I have come to really love apologizing. Possibly more than any other interpersonal transaction between humans, it has radically transformative power.

To contextualize that statement: I do the best I can and I actively endeavor to be as kind and generous and non-harming as possible. I say actively with emphasis, because it is a mindful practice every day. I have some default, reflexive ways of being that are not as kind and generous as I would like. So I really do try, every day. But, like all of us, I still screw things up fairly routinely. I say stuff I shouldn't say, and sometimes my behavior is thoughtless, selfish, and/or passive-aggressive. Usually this is unintentional, but sometimes...I'm just behaving like an a**hole.

Example: I was out with a friend saturday night, sitting on the sidewalk in the CWE. The service at the bar where we were was spotty and slow, and I was getting a little bit impatient with it. My friend is pretty chill, so he doesn't get too annoyed and is usually just amused if I get activated by something. We'd had three different people take our orders and at least one of them simply failed to return (ever) with the drinks we'd ordered. Then we ordered a round from the guy who eventually came to check on us, and when the he came back, he'd forgotten part of the order. I made a snarky comment to my friend about it, not realizing the server was still standing there. My friend pointed out that he'd heard me, and I felt embarrassed, because while I was somewhat annoyed with the situation, it didn't specifically have anything to do with that particular server and I didn't actually want to make him feel badly. So, a few minutes later, I went inside, found the server, looked at his face, and told him I realized he'd heard my off-handed rude comment, that I was sorry for being a jerk, that I was frustrated with the situation and not at him personally, and that my behavior was inexcusable. He looked surprised and admitted it was only his third day, and so he probably had screwed things up. (Obviously at this point I felt even worse!) So I assured him he was doing fine, and he accepted my apology. It was unusual, probably, but it wasn't awkward or difficult to do, and it may or may not have affected his night in the least. But what it meant for me was that I didn't have to sit outside feeling bad for being a jerk, (or worse, NOT feeling bad for being a jerk). The moral of that story is that I shouldn't make snarky comments that I don't really mean, period, because although I probably wouldn't have felt bad saying what I said if he hadn't heard it, it was still rude and gives an impression of me to my friend and anyone else near me that I don't feel proud of.

So I guess what I'm saying is something I've actually written blog posts about in the past: apologizing is awesome. The greatest gift I can give myself and my relationships (with not only people I love, but also the other people in the world) is to recognize when I've done something harmful and immediately attempt to repair any damage I've caused with careless words or actions. Just today, I made a seemingly off-handed (read: passive-aggressive) comment to a dear friend and watched it land poorly and hurt her feelings. I assured her I didn't mean anything by it and moved on. But after thinking about it, I realized I had kind of meant what I said, or what I was sort of trying to say, but I hadn't expressed it in a good or loving or productive way. It had come out sideways, as unexpressed feelings often do. So I sent her a message apologizing and clarifying where the comment came from and what I really meant and how I should have said it differently. And we had a good talk about it, and it's okay now, and we both feel better.

So, listen to me: you're never going to be as awesome as you intend to be. Your words will come out in ways you don't intend them to, and you'll sometimes (probably) be an a**hole. It's okay. Work on it, but in the meantime, learn to apologize. It can be hard on the ego, so for those of us who are very prideful, this will be very difficult. But it's worth the effort. This is the practice. This is the work. This is how we build and stabilize and rebuild relationships. Trust me. I'm a professional. :)

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