Monday, January 24, 2011


There are always situations everyday, when we end up hurting people around us..either intentionally or unintentionally, by our choice of words, by our actions.  The world agrees, the only plausible thing that should follow such situations, is an apology, an act of genuine remorse.

What is one’s idea of a sincere apology? Should it show compassion and humility? Should it mean “I’m sorry for what I did, I realize I hurt your feelings and I can see, you are suffering”, and take responsibility for the situation? Be it for hurting somebody’s feelings, or betraying somebody’s trust, missing an appointment, or being late, or any other myriad reasons there could be. 

But, how many times have we really apologized to the person we wronged with this intent? Isn’t an earnest apology, so much easier said than done? Many times, one is not able to translate these feelings into words. Could it be due to being callous,  insensitive, that, one doesn’t even realize, somebody is hurt, or, are we just being cautious? Is it due to our inflated ego, or, our own self righteous attitude?!!!  The Wall Street Journal..writes that women apologized more than men!  Mostly, men are so hard boiled to even understand that they have offended somebody.

They are wired that way…it says!

How convenient…I say!

Most of the times…they are apologizing …just to end the drama. They don’t even know what wrong was done!

Look at this clip that was published in Wall Street’s Personal Journal.  What are some of the apologies that we have used from the ones listed below? Other than the only type of apology that matters, which is “a sincere apology”, many of us have done all these types of apologies, isn’t it?…

The most used that I have seen around me, is the Strategic Apology. I didn’t even need to train my toddler at it. She’s already an expert at it. Its the most favorite of mine too! A perfect solution to a difficult situation with Hubby dear.

Lets consider my toddlers apology. If only I could execute a quarter value of her apology to hubby dear, we would be the sweetest couple on the block. Only, I don’t have a sweet tooth :-)

When Richa finds herself cornered, she has no qualms about apologizing to mommy or her siblings. She does it with little resistance.  With her Didi’s, they hug her before she could blurt the words out. With me, she comes to me with those kitty eyes..(the ones that puss shows in Shrek 3) and hugs my legs, pulls my hands around her to hug her..and its done!

To her, its the best way to get out of a hot seat. It not only means that she’s sorry that she got caught doing it..but, also

“Lets stop talking further about this now that I’ve apologized”.

This apology doesn’t guarantee that she’ll not be repeating it again, thanks to her toddler mind, which remembers all the privileges that she is eligible for, but goes easy, on her memory of things, she should not be doing, although, there’s always a promise of not repeating at the table. I guess, parenting has made us smart enough to elicit this out of our kids, however meaningless that might be!

I’ve done a lot of such apologies too, when I’m not interested in continuing an argument with Hubby dear, when I didn’t feel like it was my fault, or that, what I said shouldn’t have been construed the way it was, or, when we are each talking apples and oranges, when each of us feels that our opinion is right…Then, the easiest way I see, is to, apologize my way out of the situation. A strategic apology is what I end up with.  But, with the time that we’ve been together, we are able to gauge this of each other..We’ve each gotten smarter at it. At making such an apology and deciphering one too!

Now the process of demanding a categorical apology starts. He starts to find out..why I’m apologizing because, in the course of our argument we’ve already hurt each other much more than we initially started out with. So, this apology is for the previous faux pas/opinion  (Aren’t we entitled to our opinions, anyways?!) , or, for the deliberate hurting comments that followed later, or both, becomes necessary to know. The categorical apology becomes necessary.  It sometimes, runs the risk of becoming a Too-Late apology! 

“You’ve hurt me further,  Now, there’s no undoing, I feel even terrible. Leave me alone!!!!”,  I would end up saying to Hubby dear.

“ How can you be so cruel?”.  Almost bullying him into rubbing his nose to the ground, for peace between us.

There is another silver line I have! The Kids!  They go to Papa asking him to finish this argument off, between us.  Papa dear cannot refuse this of the kids. After that request..nothing matters.  Still, it would sometimes run the risk of becoming a Defensive Apology, or a Contingent Apology like ...

“I’m sorry, if what I said was hurting..but, you shouldn’t have said….blah blah…”


“I’m sorry, if I hurt you with my opinion..I was just expressing mine…blah blah..”

How would I classify the apology that happens between my triplets?  Most times, the apology they give to each other, does turn into a sincere heart felt one, although, it usually doesn’t start off like that.  To quell a tense situation between one hard thing for me to deal with…

Especially, when they start to bawl and let out boat load of tears, as they are just about to apologize to their siblings. On our instruction, of course!! We, as their parents, had found them guilty..and their punishment, an apology.

Sometimes, P had described the reason for her breaking down, to her feeling of intense regret. Basically, she was very sorry for being such a jerk..for being caught!  Not only is it a pain to play a judge and find out who is wrong and who is not, who should apologize in a battle between them,  we are in for this tearful extravaganza that we need to quell too!!

Once something like that starts, I tell you, its hard to reason out with them, its hard to say if they are listening to us, if they understand us.  How many times haven’t we parents found ourselves in such a situation, and ..wanted the kids to sort out their fights between themselves? 

Not only does it become hard to judge, I get carried away with the kid who is able to put forth their case in the most logical way ( conforming to my contorted sense of logic of course!), even though this kid must be at fault and is very good at covering up her fault. Now what results is an undeserved title for the mom. Unfair Mom! Mean Mom! Partial Mom!

How we try to dodge these titles each day can be a book in itself, right Moms? (Reminds me!  I’m speaking/thinking just like my parents did when they were in our shoes!  Reminds me! of the saying. “Once we start justifying what our parents did, we are old!”)

All this said..I can’t but, have all praise for my children when they do end up apologizing to each other. The intensity and honesty with which they hug and cry holding each other. Its a lesson for me to learn. Instead of me setting an example to them..they make this class on contrition, seem like a breeze to me. I learnt that its just the first move that’s difficult to make. After that…everybody feels good.  We end up with cleansed souls..and hearts, so much lighter.  The world looks like a fair place again, right?!

What about the statistics that mention, we offer more apologies to strangers than loved ones.  How many of you’ll find yourself apologizing to perfect strangers or your friends more often? Either you brushed against them inadvertently in a crowd..or, you just have to ask them..what the time is, or, you just came to know u’r friend had not been well or ,you’re just at a loss of words that “Sorry” seems the right thing to say.

I surely can count myself among this breed who is able to apologize to a stranger/friend at the drop of a hat, to the point that sometimes, the number of times I utter “Sorry” is counted. On the same note,  I find it very difficult to do the same when it comes to my loved ones.  As I grew up…my new found independence had made it very difficult for me to apologize to my parents or my siblings. Now, its my spouse that I find the most difficult to apologize to.

“What if I apologize? Won’t I get vulnerable?..This is going to be in my record for the rest of my life, that I was the one who had erred!”  Many times, truth is a matter of ones opinion so, it gets hard to even convince the hubby,  that it was he who was wrong, not me! It is I, who deserves the apology and not vice versa.

Every time we argue…Won’t I be brought back to this situation? let me know, I had been at fault! 

“You had apologized too!”  I will be reminded by hubby dear!

Forgetfulness and our choice of memories make this an even complicated issue. You can understand how hard this can get. Especially between spouses.

Many times, as parents we err in our judgment of our kids in a situation..maybe due to the kids reputation.  I’ve learnt to apologize to my kids very gracefully in such cases. If I expect my kids to apologize in a situation..I need to learn to be honest myself, right?! Gone are the days when they were toddlers and when everything we said appeared right!

I hope this exercise will let me learn to apologize to Hubby dear with the same grace too! Apologies are very powerful. They end wars. They provide comfort when one is hurting. It helps in alleviating difficult situations when the apologizer takes responsibility of the wrong doing and lets the person suffering understand, “I know the hurt I have caused..I’m so sorry”. 

If I am able to imbibe in me, even a little bit of  that air, with which my kids come to me and hug me and say “I’m sorry Mama, I won’t do that again”, as they are leaving for school,  or, when they come to me and hug me “Good Night Mama”  in spite of the fact that I was just mad at them for some reason, I am going to be pleased with myself.. 

All my frustrations and anguish,  vanishes in that moment they apologize so sincerely to me! I hug them so tight and all the love babbles start to roll out of my mouth.  It makes me feel bad that I even got mad at them.

If apologizing is so comforting to both..Shouldn’t I be able to do it to hubby dear and he to me, too?!


Rachna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Venky (வெங்கி) said...

I think the ones who do apologise are not weak, they are the strong. bcos they forgive themselves and also let other to forgive.

Renu said...

Some people apologise to avoid the unpleasantness, but they dont intend it. I feel verbal apologies without suitable actions are no use, and they always irritate me more than making happy.

I apologise only when I feel that i can mend my ways.

Gayatri said...

Venky..I so much agree with you. I think it takes a lot of courage for somebody to own up to their mistake and apologize. We always know in our hearts..if we were wrong.

There could be a backlash, when we own up. there could be things we'll need to hear which we are not upto, so, inspite of all go and apologize without letting a "but" come in between, without appearing defensive..its really is a brave and pure effort.

Gayatri said...

Yes Renu, when we also means that we don't want to repeat this again, that we want to fix the hurt we caused..So, without suitable actions, the apology is meaningless.

That's my idea apologize when I really feel sorry, and wll surely mend my ways. I used to expect the other person to understand that I'm sorry without needing to say watch my actions that really show how sorry I am.

But, to this person on the other side who has been hurt..and if a little apologzy helps them feel better, we are indeed doing that, so, now-a-days I do try to express that in words too. Especially, when I find myself setting an example to the kids. I can't demand from them..what I don't follow.

raji said...

Hi Gayatri ,just stopped by and read this post ,found it interesting.The fact that you handle 4 kids (3 being triplets)made me swing my head and come back to reality!hats off to you:)As per apology post was concerned ,it was a pleasureful experience reading the way the sweet kids apologized to each other and to you.Kids are so tender and innocent and hope they continue the same through their adulthood.We as adults ,find it very hard to apologize;it's no exception with me. Recently ,I and my husband had a great fight:) and he had really hurt my emotions.To my surprise ,the first time ever he apologized whole heartedly and gave me a warm hug and i just melted in his arms.So compassionate is an apology!

Gayatri said...

Hi Raji...Nice to see you here. Thanks for your comments. Loved it.
Trust me..I've had those melting moments too. I know how good it feels when I come clean sometimes or am told by Hubby..that he's sorry. Those moments are few :-( though. There's a lot of politics in marriage too!

Talha said...

I agree when ever someone apologize all of anger just disappear.

Gayatri said...

@Talha..Welcome. Right..I surely feel that with my kids.
With my Hubby, I hold on to it a little more than I should :-(