STEPPING STONES TO AN EFFECTIVE APOLOGY

Whenever a delicious dish is served to me, I finish it within no time. I usually take 5 – 15 minutes to finish my meal. After each good and satisfying meal, I tell my wife, “It takes so much time to prepare a meal, but we finish it within 5 or 10 minutes.”

Let’s calculate the time of preparation of a delicious meal… She goes to the market to buy vegetables, meat, spices, rice etc., which takes around 30 minutes. Then she chops them into the right pieces and washes them clean, which takes around say, 25 minutes. Then she marinates the meat for another 30 minutes… Then she starts cooking the meal which takes another 15-30 minutes… garnishing and serving take another 5 minutes… Total time taken to prepare a good and delicious meal is 2 hours. And I finish that same meal within 15 minutes, maximum.  

An apology is that kind of meal that is offered by the person who has done wrong, who prepares it to make it presentable, acceptable and satisfiable for the receiver who has been wronged.

An apology is not a magic word called, ‘Sorry’. I know, my friend Prabhjot in her article talked about three magic words and the word ‘Sorry’ to be one of those three which needs to be taught to the toddlers. Yeah, that’s true…it’s a magic word for the toddlers only. Kids don’t understand the gravity and they needed to be made understand with the words they are acquainted with and magic is quite a catchy word for them. But in the real sense of it, an apology is not at all a magic word but a painstaking expression and action of a person which is offered wholeheartedly to another person.

I will share an experience that my wife went through when she was working in a school as an assistant teacher. There was a teacher who asked my wife to get out of the classroom rudely for some reason. My wife was extremely hurt and approached the higher authorities. The matter was dismissed when that teacher apologised my wife by saying sorry. But my wife still remembers that. She definitely has forgiven her but the hurt was there as a memory. They are not toddlers, they are adults and just an insensitive ‘Sorry’ has no magic in it to restore the relationship or friendship whatever it was.

How then, an apology should look like? What are the stepping stones to present an effective apology?

I was reading an article lately on Psychology Today, my favourite web journal. That article talks about a study that discovered six components of a good apology. They are –

  1. Acceptance of Responsibility.
  2. Offer of Repair.
  3. Expression of Regret.
  4. Explanation of what went wrong.
  5. Declaration of Repentance.
  6. Request for Forgiveness.

I arranged the points or steps exactly how the study explains.

But I have compressed the whole idea into three very easy steps:

Remembering & Regretting about the PAST

Realising & Repenting in the PRESENT

Requesting & Recuperating for the FUTURE

Let’s discuss them one by one…

1. Remembering & Regretting about the PAST:

I usually get irritated when my mistake is reminded. I say, ‘Past is past…forget it’. But it won’t be forgotten unless I have regretted about it and owned my mess to clean up. My apology is not meant to silence the person who’s hurt but a reminder of my past mistake.

Accepting responsibility is the number one and the most important of all in this category. Accepting that I have made a mistake and making it clear that I am at fault opens up the gate to communicate with the person who is hurt by me. We should always be careful about the ‘BUT or Excuses in Apology’ as warned by Avinash in his article.

The article that I had read on PT, gives an example of two statements which I want to state here for all of us to learn – say, “I’m sorry I said hurtful things” rather than saying, “I’m sorry if you were hurt by my words.”

Accepting responsibility is like garnishing and the smell of the meal a host offers to a guest. It is the act to confirm that I remember what I did, regret about what I did in the past and ready to held responsible for it fully.

2. Realising & Repenting in the PRESENT:

Ranjandini, in her article mentioned about the language of apology, I think that aligns with the expression of regret which is as important as realising and repenting which has to be undertaken by the defaulter one after the other, in the present time when he or she is standing in front of the wronged. Preeta made it very clear that one should apologise if he or she really have a realisation of his or her wrong doings. And the language of apology or the expression of remorse is well extended only after a true realisation.

Secondly, we all know that wrong can’t be corrected, a scar can’t be made clean later, damage can’t be undone but they can always be reduced, comforted, made up, bound up by offering a repair. It can be by writing an apology or clarifying things with the people involved in the damage because of my words towards the person who was hurt or paying compensation and so on… Repair can be done only by a true repentant.

3. Requesting & Recuperating for the FUTURE:

A reconciliation or restoration of relationship is possible when our apology is accepted by the person who was hurt by us but unfortunately, this is not falling on our part of actions as it is solely dependent on the other person. But an effective apology always requires the defaulter to ask forgiveness from the person against whom the wrong had been done. When we face denial our ego may challenge us to take a step back and stop thinking of bending down to complete the whole act of apology and reconcile the strained relationship but we should remember to own the mess by taking responsibility of our wrongs.  

In conclusion, I just want to give stress on the subject of apology by quoting what Prerna said in her article – “every human commits sins and mistakes, so every human should seek forgiveness”, but we should always apologise in the right time – as early as possible. Kalpana, lost the opportunity to apologise to her father because she didn’t do that before it’s too late.

So, friends, before its too late let’s move our feet on those slippery and difficult stepping stones to complete the process of true and effective apology and restore our friendship/relationship. The Bible says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion“. If our confession is true then our apology will be effective. 

Stay Blessed!

THE ‘BUT’ IN AN APOLOGY

All of us deal from a common platform Apart from God, No One Is Perfect. The sting of imperfection is deeply rooted in us since we were conceived and its shackle accompanies us till death. Some of these infections were credited in our heredity, some are the adverse effect of our environment and some are the byproducts of our thoughts. Altogether, irrespective of the intensity of our mistakes, we human sin and hurt every now and then, so THE NEED OF APOLOGY IS INEVITABLE in our life. Usually, as our mistakes are unveiled, we apologize but it is always backed by a BUT!

“Yes, I accept, I have done wrong and I apologize for that, BUT……

While chatting with my friend, unintentionally I hurt her through some inappropriate words. As a result, she was upset on me although I never intend to hurt her. Both of us were not in a good state of mind. In the meanwhile another friend phoned me and after hearing my upset tone he enquired about me. I shared him everything in detail and he replied, Bhai (Brother), “first of all, do not defend yourself with ‘But I never intend to hurt her’, accept that you went absolutely wrong. Wear her shoes and see how much hurtful are those words. I think you need to apologize her without using your excuse word –BUT.”

Often this is our story, we apologize but with an excuse. As we have no option left to hide our sin, situationally we were forced to accept our sinful act but intentionally we don’t. We look for a defense to advocate our mistakes and by raising an excuse we just roll the dice of blame on the other person/situation and tend to gain sympathy. Do you think we have apologized?

Sir Benjamin Franklin says,

“Never ruin an apology with an excuse”

Giving excuse along with an apology does not fit to exact nature of an apology, moreover, it is an inner approval to the sin committed and is the symptom of recurrence. An excuse along with apology is the tactful defense of our Self-righteousness and antagonistic nature to correction. It is the sheer reflection of self-aggrandisation. It is such a grievous state of life where transgression is visible yet our inclination deceives us to take it for granted.

An apology is the realization of the transgression in mind, verbal confession of the transgression, a lesson to rectify the trespassing of the holistic boundary in a relationship and a humble attempt towards the restoration of the brokenness.

God says,

“Confess your sins to each other, forgive one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

Apology brings healing and strength to the relationship but when the BUT and IF spine it, It Won’t Work.   

LETTER TO MY FATHER

Dear Father,

Hope You are doing well there. I am fine here. It’s been long since I opened up about my feelings. Today I want to let it flow without any interruption or inhibition.

I want to tell you how much I miss you. The lateral distance between us seems irrelevant as I find you by my side every day in my dreams. Every time I cook your signature dishes I miss your touch in them. Every moment I watch my kids grow up I can imagine your expressions and reactions if you were around them. Every year when my trips are due to my homeland I can visualize how happy you would be to receive me. Whenever I have a disagreement with mom I know you would vouch for me. To put it plain and simple you are never away from me.

But more I find you closer to me more I regret not apologising to you for my rude behaviour, for my harsh words, for my cold shoulder that I gave you when you least expected it. We had a crisis, we stood together and rose to the occasion but I did let anger dwell within me against some of your decisions. The new then-found independence handed me over a bit of arrogance which I sometimes used in my words that hurt you. That was in the spur of the moment though.  You never held any grudge against me. We fell apart but kept flowing together only to reconcile more strongly. I thank you for everything you did for me.

Now having a family of my own I understand how spearheaded words can leave you wounded for long or forever. I plead of being guilty to have done the same to you. I wish I could have apologised to you early. I wish I could have ripped open my heart to you to show how guilt is written all over it. I wish I could talk to you one more time.

I miss you and I am sorry Daddy.

Yours Lovingly,

Daughter.

P.S: please post this letter to heaven as my father resides there.

People say “better late than never” but I would say “do it before it’s too late“. As a family, we all have such moments transpiring among us where in the heat of arguments or disagreements, disappointments, disapproval we end up shooting curses, venomous words to hurt people and satisfy our ego for that moment. Later everything falls back to normalcy. We sometimes apologise, sometimes take “Sorry” for granted and never actually say it because we know our family loves us with all our follies and we move on.  And many a time there are instances that our leniency would never give us a chance to say it to the concerned person even after we realise how wrong we were because that person is gone like in my case.

Remember: Apologise now before it’s too late because later you might have all the courage and beautiful words to express your remorse but the person might not be there with you forever.  Uncertainty’s thy name is LIFE.

APOLOGY, THE ONLY WAY TO WIN AN INCENSED

There is a very famous saying, “To err is human, to forgive is divine”. We, humans, make mistakes and we are not perfect. Even if, we try hard, not to commit sins and mistakes, we end up committing mistakes. Sometimes, we hurt people through our words or action and maybe we don’t realize it. There is no such human who didn’t hurt a person or two, throughout life. As, Rajnandini said in her article, “we can’t please everybody we meet”, but we can apologize.

I remember one incident, my niece was one year old. Like every other household, we too taught her different words like please, thank you etc. One day, she hit her father while playing. We asked her to say sorry, she immediately held her ears and apologized to her father. It seemed so cute that I couldn’t resist myself from planting a soft kiss on her cheeks. Now, she is about to turn 4, and she understands, whenever she hits or hurts somebody, she must seek forgiveness.

Those who think an apology is a sign of being weak, they are always wrong. Seeking forgiveness will never make you weak. Owing to the fact, you are strong enough to realize your mistake and making an effort to win the trust. When you don’t apologize, you lose a valuable person. When you apologize, let it be from within because the fake ones can never restore things.

Since every human commits sins and mistakes, so every human should seek forgiveness, irrespective of their age. Apologizing has a power that heals the wound caused by our words and actions, to some extent. When we apologize, then it shows we value the person and the relationship, like anything. It shows, we are sorry for our action.

Concluding, I would say, an apology is a string that brings back the incensed and one should never miss this string.

I SURPRISE MYSELF

From dreaming a dreamy dream
with my eyes wide open to
living a lifeless life with my
soul completely broken;

I surprise myself by turning the
curve of my lips downside up,
pretending to beat the blues when
already my soul has blown-up.

I surprise myself by
breathing every day,
by letting fate, with me,
callously play.

I surprise myself by letting you
play with my heart again,
when you so carelessly smashed
it without realising my pain.

I surprise myself by letting you
make me believe, every time,
that I’m at fault,
when you are the one
never to apologize for all
your fierce assaults.

I surprise myself by offering
you my world which you
shattered time and again,
and how I end up apologising
to myself for making such
a blunder but still an excuse I feign.

Now when my eyes have chosen to
see beyond that dreamy haze,
I pick up those fallen morsels of me,
I apologize to them in all ways.

ONE OF MY MAGIC WORDS

Mumma, what are magic words?” asked Joey.

There are three magic words – Thank you, Please and Sorry. And you know where to use which magic words, right?” I asked.

Yes, but why are they called magic words?” Joey asked again.

Because whenever you say these words, it does magic on the other person and other person feels very good. And in turn that gives you happiness too.” I tried to explain…

Ok mumma, I will try to use them.” he ran away immediately after uttering these words…

The same evening when Joey had a fight with a friend over sharing his favorite, he apparently hit one of his friends who went crying back home. When I asked him to say “Sorry”, he stomped his feet, shouted on me and started crying hysterically. Well, these are the everyday stories of being a mother.

Later when he calmed down –

Joey, why didn’t use the magic word when I asked you to? You know your friend would have felt so much better if you would have.” I told him gently…

Mumma, I don’t like ‘Sorry’ word. I like the other two, but not this one.” He told me innocently.

Why is that?” I asked him hoping that I don’t probe him too much.

I don’t know.” He looked at me expecting that maybe I know why he doesn’t like just this magic word.

You know what, it is difficult to use this magic word. Because this magic word makes you realize that you did something bad. It makes you feel guilty (I know for sure he doesn’t know what this word means). And you have to say it when probably you are getting too angry or frustrated with the other person. That’s why you don’t like it.” I told him almost sure he didn’t understand.

Then why do I have to use it?” this time he asked with tears in his eyes.

Because as soon as you use it, you will feel much better. And you can be friends again with your best friend. Isn’t it? Do you want to play with your friend again?” I asked

He nodded.

Then you have to give up your anger and apologize to him. Once you do that, he will also become happy and you can be friends again.” I told him

He called up his friend immediately and apologized. It hardly took 30 seconds for them to reconcile and they were back again to being best friends. They are just two 4-year-old boys who struggle to get over their anger and ego to apologize.

At work, we follow agile methodology of software development. That basically means that we plan the work only for 2 weeks and at the end of the two weeks, the whole team meets and discusses what went really well in last two weeks and what could have been improved. It is also an opportunity for the team to appreciate each other.

My role in the team is to define the plan for these two weeks and set the right priorities for the team. So, if I mess up – the team ends up working on something that might not be needed. And I do have messed up at times which made the team suffer. It isn’t a good place to be at. And when such things happen, I dread the session at the end of the 2 weeks. Because I know that I would be put on the spot and will be questioned on my decisions.

To prep for these sessions, I only tell myself that “It is ok to mess up, but it absolutely not ok to make excuses for it. If I messed up, I need to own it up and apologize and take the corrective actions. There is nothing else that I can do better to rectify.”

Every single time that I have owned up my issues and decisions – it has worked wonders. Sometimes working with other teams, I really struggle when another person is not ready to own it up. You got to own up and apologize – that is the only way forward. Otherwise, it is only a blame game and we adults look worse than the two 4-year-old boys who keep blaming each other for not sharing, snatching and hitting. Somebody needs to tell us, adults, that magic words really work – use them appropriately and you will save so much time and energy.

MY FROG FRIEND

All of us have that one person in our life whom we love more than a friend but less than a spouse, someone who is very dear and someone who witnesses our joys and sorrows unconditionally. I call this person as my “FROG FRIEND”.

April – June, 2007:
I was perusing my MBA-Finance and had started interning there for Canada taxation with one of the KPOs and I noticed him there. He used to sit across me but far away, in another team from IT. He was definitely not someone who would attract a second look from girls but somehow he managed to grab my attention. Girls have the innate power of understanding who is staring at them even without looking. So, this guy used to stare at me constantly but in a very natural manner which never made me uncomfortable. You all will agree that not every gaze makes you uncomfortable. Some gaze at you in a really clean way and his gaze was like that. So this “gazing” business continued for quite a few days and we progressed from a gaze to a smile. He had a very pleasing personality. We would exchange 100 smiles a day but neither of us ever felt the urge to walk up to the work desk and initiate a talk. We never even used office communicator to talk to each other. We knew nothing more about each other than the name and that too because other colleagues would often call out our names. This guy turned from a “stranger” to “someone familiar” over two months of time.

Once monthly shutout and best performer awards were being distributed. I was declared as the best performer and I was handed over a cash prize and a certificate amidst of a huge applaud from the team. My eyes were searching that “someone familiar” and there he was standing at the end half covered behind a desk clapping as loudly as he can. His face beamed with pride and I couldn’t help but smile again.


My internship was to last for 3 months and soon the time came to say a bye. It was my last day and I was bidding goodbye to all my team members. Between all the handshakes and hugs I was looking for that “someone familiar” but he was not to be seen anywhere. Not even behind any work desk far away. I lingered around with the hope that he might return from a meeting or a tea break, but no, it didn’t look like he was coming back. I had to leave. I left with a heavy heart and hundreds of questions like “Who was he?”, “Why did we never speak?”, “Why did I want to say him a good bye?”, “Why did I miss him on this last day?” I did not have an answer to any but there was this strange belongingness which refused to leave my heart. I stopped by the pantry to have a glass of water and what did I see? He was standing there with a sad face – as if he was sad that my stint at the KPO was over. Or maybe he was sad that we won’t see each other never again. I don’t know what he was thinking at that time but I was very happy to see him one last time before I left. We exchanged a smile – a last one perhaps and I left. His simplicity and his non-lustful gaze had impressed me. It wasn’t love but there was definitely something between us. Whatever it was, it had ended with the completion of my internship. Or so we thought that day.

2008, Aug:
The same KPO hired me after I completed my MBA and I was given the same team. However the team had now shifted to another building. That “someone familiar” had carved a special place in my mind and heart but it was very clear that he wasn’t going to be around when I rejoined the KPO because the IT team had not shifted to this building. And who knew whether he was still working with this KPO. After all, IT guys tend to switch companies real soon.

On one busy, while I waited for my food to arrive, I was looking around taking in the usual commotion that is there in the cafeteria during he lunch time. Suddenly my eyes stopped on that “someone familiar”. I blinked a couple of times out of surprise and a wide smile broke on my face. He reciprocated with even a wider smile. It made my day!
Later that day I received and email from him

“Hi!

Are you the same Aditi who was in the US taxation team?”

He was probably checking if he is contacting the right Aditi from corporate directory. Pat went my reply.

Hey!

Yes, I am the same Aditi. Btw – it’s Canada taxation and not US!”

This communication was an ice breaker. We would wish good morning sometime over the email of course and sometimes we would write about some achievement at work. We didn’t communicate daily and we never used the office communicator or phone for reason still unknown to us. Thus, our interactions were quite rare yet very special.

June, 2009:
That was my last email to him from office.

“Hi there!

Have to share some good news.

  • I got a new job
  • I am getting married

Next Friday is my last working day.”

I eagerly waited for his reply but he didn’t revert. Numerous thoughts crowded my mind. “Was he sad that I was going?”, “Why isn’t he happy with my progress?” blah blah blah. I waited for his reply for the whole week but he didn’t revert. On my last day, he called me on my work phone and wished me success in personal as well as professional life. I questioned him what took him so long to revert and he quickly said that he was on a “hibernation mode”. Nevertheless I was ecstatic! That was the first time we spoke.

Later, I got busy with my life but this guy was always there at the back of my mind. By then Facebook had started making its presence felt. I looked up for him on the Facebook but he wasn’t there. We had not exchanged our personal email ids. We had lost touch once again.

One day I had an urge to check on him on his corporate id. Once again I was unsure whether he still worked there or not but I took a chance. The email didn’t bounce which meant that he was still there! Happy Me ☺ I desperately waited for his reply but he didn’t revert. Days passed followed by weeks and months. By then, I had given up on him. I was sort of annoyed that he was purposely ignoring me.

One fine day I received a reply from him and I wasn’t a bit amused. I was angry and wondered what took him more than six months to revert. He was quick to send me an explanation in yet another email stating that he was on “hibernation mode”. It surprised me that he knew me so well and justified his disappearance.


After that there was no looking back. We continued to be in touch via emails. Our emails grew personal in nature. We shared about our sorrows and happiness, talked about our families. We discussed about our careers. We never felt shy of seeking advice from each other regarding anything under the sky. Of course he continued to be on “hibernation mode” at periodic intervals. I sort of accepted it because I knew that someday he will definitely revert to my email.


Time progressed and so did our relationship. Even though our interaction lessened over a period of time, our bond grew stronger. His career took him from Mumbai to Pune and from Pune to UK. Now he is settled in Canada. Emails are now replaced by WhatsApp chats but there is nothing that replaces his “hibernation mode”. Over the years I have asked him many times about why does he hibernate and he still tells me the same reason.

“Aditi, we cannot get used to each other. Our respective families should be our priority. Hibernation is important to stay focused.”

Such pious thought! He explained the most important truth in such a candid way.

At present we don’t talk much, but I know he will always be there for me. I informed him when I delivered a baby last month. He quickly replied that he was waiting to hear that. He was aware of the struggle I had gone through in last six years in order to have a baby. Likewise, he has been a witness to many of my difficult times where he played a role of advisor or someone who had shown me a mirror. He has been a great guide, friend and philosopher! Not to forget, he has been someone who has been happy with the smallest of my joy.

At times I miss him. But he is right. “Hibernation” is necessary. Due to his perpetual habit of “hibernation” I call him my “FROG FRIEND.”

Some bonds can never be described and relationships can never be named. Ours is one of them.