Faux pas. We all commit them. Sometimes they occur as conscious transgressions-- comments or behavior of which an individual is aware but for which there is little remorse or "ownership". And for which an apology is not likely. One behaving in this manner is said to be rude. Then there is the more predominant class of unintentional slights and personal insults that are often an outgrowth of a stressed society. One in which heavy workloads and tight schedules occasionally lead people to overlook how their comments and actions adversely affect others. It's often a lot easier for the offending party to simply assume his/her actions were "blown out of proportion" as the recipient simply misunderstood. As such, it is assumed that an apology is not necessary. That there is nothing to apologize for, as there was no intent to offend. However, sometimes we don't mean to step...where we shouldn't, and do. Cleaning up the mess results from your actions, not your in tent.
An essential ingredient in a healthy work or personal rela- tionship is knowing when to apologize. Using "misunderstanding" and "blowing out of proportion" explanations to defend offensive behavior may only alienate people. Time to place a new spin on the situation. In eval- uating your behavior consider the following rule of thumb: The meaning of any communication is simply the response that it elicits. What you get is what you said. There are no misunderstandings...only outcomes! If someone acts offended following your behavior or actions, then you can assume you behaved offensively. A carefully placed apology-- rather than a tutorial on "understanding"-- may then resolve a difficulty, quickly, without repercussions.
What is an apology? And what frequently prevents people from offering it? An apology represents the healing factor in a social inter- action process. It serves as a maintenance man in a rela- tionship-- to repair the everyday cracks and tears as people communicate. It tends to control interpersonal damage the way bloodclotting limits bodily harm and grieving serves as an emotional conduit for resolving the pain of loss.
An apology is a powerful expression of regret which involves incorporating the offended party's feelings of shame, humil- iation or abuse as your own. By your apology, you are relin- quishing power and saying, "I had the ability to hurt you and did. And now I transfer that power to you with the hope that you can forgive me." It is thus, a way of showing how you care for someone by re- sponding empathically to how your behavior was received. It can be an intimate expression of respect and love; a profound transaction between two (or more) people. Sometimes love means...knowing when to say, "I'm sorry." And yet, an apology is often something people avoid like the plague. What is it that makes some individuals so defensive about being offensive? How does one know NOT to apologize? Quite often we confuse "bad acts" with "bad people", a dis- tortion in the modeling process of learning. Clearly, a common belief among some who commit offensive behavior is that an apology is tantamount to an admission of guilt. And a guilty person is a bad person! A related point, an apology for having offended is an admission having erred, which means "I was WRONG!" In either case, apologizing often leads to feeling shamed, and this becomes intolerable. Thus, an apology is withheld.
The distortion can be rectified by the following the rule of thumb cited earlier: (1) Accordingly, consider the true "mean- ing" of your behavior (comments), (2) Reframe the focus of the situation from you to the other party and recognize that said party has responded to your behavior as if offended by it, (3) Reverse roles and imagine being the recipient of such behavior from that individual and, (4) Consider the offended person's position and decide how specifically your apology will affect both the situation and your relationship. An apology is most effective when it acknowledges understand- ing the way your behavior affected another person. It is an act of courage and immense power that can help you control the course of a relationship