“Any good apology has 3 parts: 1) I’m sorry ; 2) It’s my fault ; 3) What can I do to make it right? Most people forget the third part.”
One of the few oases in what Newton Minnow once famously referred to as “a vast wasteland” (he meant television), is the NBC series “This Is Us.” I wrote about the series upon its inception, four years ago. In any case, it once again provoked insightful thought via the dialogue in its November 4 airing.
In the episode, one of the show’s main characters, Kevin, is discussing past mistakes with his estranged wife. He ruefully observes, “When you are a kid, ‘I’m sorry’ are the magic words. Say them and whatever you’ve done goes away. Then you become an adult ,and you discover that ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t work anymore.”
The snowman tells us that our operative beliefs dictate our actions. My epiphany took the form of recognizing that “I’m sorry” is a weak, trivial response to serious mistakes. So twenty or so years ago, long before “This Is Us” was even conceptualized, I decided to eliminate “I’m sorry” from my toolbox of relationship menders.
Actually, I do say, “I’m sorry “occasionally. If I accidentally step on your foot while squeezing past you in a tight space, I will say that I’m sorry. Why? Because stepping on you was an unintended and inadvertent act. So the phrase fits the action. But, most of the time, things we apologize for were neither accidental nor a function of ignorance. We knew what we were doing and understood that it was a mistake. OK, so now what? Nobody’s perfect. What do we do now?
The answer: CHANGE!!!
Your efforts will, because we are all human, be imperfect. But we’ll DO better and diminish the number of situations that might tempt us to reach for the lame, pathetic excuse of “I’m sorry.” The by-product of this new policy? You’ll feel better about yourself and, by extension, continue to function better as a result.
The best apology is changed behavior.
Apologies are not meant to change the past; they are supposed to change the future.