Thursday, May 30, 2013

Too Late To Apologize

While I don't think this headline is true, I did think it was a catchy title for a blog about apologizing -- and I love the song!

Anyway, there is so much to say about how to apologize, but today, I just want to focus on one little word that should never be included in an apology.

The word is "but." If you ever hear yourself say this word during an attempted apology, STOP yourself immediately, because you've just canceled the apology.

It doesn't matter if you are apologizing to your child, your spouse, your parent or a friend. The use of the word "but" renders your apology null and void. It tells the other person you are not sincere and that you are not taking responsibility for hurting their feelings. Furthermore, it introduces an excuse for your offending behavior. This hurts the offended person even more.

Here are a couple of examples of what not to say:
  • "I am sorry I yelled at you, but you made me so mad." 
  • "I am sorry I said mean things to you, but I'm just so frustrated with how you've handled this situation."
  • "I am sorry for losing my temper, but you shouldn't have done that."
Here are a couple of examples of more sincere apologies:
  • "I am sorry I yelled at you. I should not have done that. I love you so much. Can you forgive me?"
  • "I am sorry I said mean things to you. I did not mean to hurt your feelings. I value our friendship and I want to make things right. Is there anything I can do?"
  • "I am sorry for losing my temper. You did not deserve to be treated that way. I am working very hard to try to never do that again. Will you accept my apology?"
And of course, you actually have to be sincere with your words!

Just this morning I had to practice a good apology with my daughter. I had lost my temper and yelled at her. I could have given her a long list of reasons why I felt justified about yelling at her in the moment, but the truth is none of them matter. The only thing that matters is that I love her and I want to treat her well. I want to parent her with kindness, compassion and grace. Yelling has no place in that.

On the positive side, when I slip up and do yell at her, I am giving myself an opportunity to apologize, and I am showing her how to apologize -- good lessons for both of us!

There's no question about it, apologizing is difficult, but with some work and practice, you can get better at it. If all else fails, just try to think about how you would like to be apologized to and go from there! And remember, the end result is a reconciliation of the relationship that was broken by the offense.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Handling Raw Emotions in the Midst of Personal Attacks

Ever been on the receiving end of a personal attack? How did you respond? Did you attack back? Or did you give yourself time to gain your composure and respond gently? 

I don't know about you, but when I am personally attacked, my first reaction is one of wanting to fight back and defend myself, but I've learned over the years how deal with it better, and a couple recent experiences have reminded me of some great wisdom.

Whether the attack comes at you from email, text or in person, you have a CHOICE about how to respond. 

You can choose to respond with the same level of venom that was spewed on you by defending  yourself and attempting to prove how wrong the other person is ... or, you can choose to give grace and respond gently. 

Responding to a personal attack out of anger is a reaction. Reactions generally contain harsh words used to prove how wrong the other person is. It feels good for about a second as you defend yourself, but then as you're speaking, you realize what a mess you're creating and that you are going to have to go back and clean it up later.

Instead, choose a reply and remember, "a gentle reply turns away wrath."

When I am personally attacked I usually need time to process the situation and my feelings in my journal before I can speak about it gently. Then, as I prepare to address the situation with the other person, I try to apply a process I learned in the book Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst.

I'll use the example from the book to illustrate how to accomplish each step. (In the books she shares a harsh email she received from the parent of a child at her daughter's school who was not invited to her daughter's birthday party.)
  1. Honor the one offended. You can do this by pointing out a good quality. "I can tell you are a mother who cares deeply for your child." 
  2. Keep your response short and full of grace. 
    • Acknowledge the expressed hurt. "I understand how hard it can be when we feel our child has been left out. Like you, I hurt when my child hurts."
    • Briefly clarify your intentions. "Might I share from my heart what I intended when we invited only the girls from Hope's homeroom class to the party?..."
    • Be gently honest about the situation and offer a door. "You are probably aware of the conflicts our daughters have had this year. If you would like to discuss some possible ways we can better guide both girls, I would welcome that."
    • Apologize if appropriate. "Please accept my most sincere apology for causing you and your daughter hurt."
  3. Extend compassion. End your note or conversation sincerely. If you can find it in your heart to extend a warm closing, do so. It will go a long way in helping to resolve the situation.
I recently had a couple of opportunities to practice this technique, and I am SO glad I did. It brought such a sense of peace to the situation -- especially for me, because I could actually feel good about how I handled the situation without having to go back and clean it up later. Imagine that!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

I got 26 Hugs from my Daughter this Morning

Isn't that sweet? I got 26 hugs from my daughter this morning! Why on earth would I write about that? Well, because it was before school in the rush of trying to get everyone out the door! Every parent knows how busy mornings can be!

This morning, Alyssa had a few extra minutes before it was time to go, so she wanted to read me a book called Big Hugs, Little Hugs. It tells a "story" about all of these different critters who hug and where they hug -- inside, outside, upstairs, downstairs ... you get the idea!

Reading it was cute enough, but then I was ready to move on. Not so with Alyssa -- she wanted to act out each and every hug.

One little voice in my head said, "Oh my goodness! I do not have time for this right now. I still have 26 things to do before we leave."

But another voice in my head said, "What could be more important than this?"

So, away we went on a hugging spree -- acting out each and every one. I have to admit, I was still feeling a bit reluctant -- it was 7:00 in the morning, my coffee hadn't quite kicked in yet, and my daughter was making me do all of these wacky things.

But, in the end, I'm so glad I made the choice to slow down for Alyssa this morning. It was the highlight of my day and a memory I won't soon forget! What could be better?