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When You Just Want an Apology!

When you hear yourself say, "I just want an apology!" you have stepped into the field of right and wrong where two hearts shall never meet.  Usually the thought behind wanting an apology is "She was wrong!"  You are hoping that if the one who hurt you admits s/he was wrong and you were right, that yours needs will be met. Those needs might include empathy, respect, safety, mutual responsibility, and consideration.

Of course, if you harangue someone for an apology and finally get it, it's unlikely that the other has any real connection to your needs.  S/he is just standing there with you in the field of right and wrong in the little spot marked wrong.

So what can you do when you hear yourself say, "I just want an apology!"  First, take a breath and turn towards whatever hurt feeling is there.  Let yourself feel the heartache.  This might take a little time because you will need to come down from the anger first.  Coming down from anger might involve some deep slow breaths and disconnecting from your jackal show by naming your judgment thoughts as they come up rather than believing them.

Second identify for yourself what needs weren't met for you by the other's behavior.  It's easy to stay in right and wrong thinking here if you say something like "She didn't meet my need for respect!"  There is a "should" behind this thought, "She should respect me!"  If you are still feeling angry you are likely still locating in these thoughts.  Connecting with needs in this situation means feeling the sadness of them not being met and accepting that as well as feeling the sacredness of those needs.

Third, if you can find some space in you for it, it can be very helpful to ask him or her what feelings and needs were alive for them when they said or did that which was hard for you.  This isn't so much to provide direct empathy for them as it is about you remembering that this is a person with a heart just like you, trying to meet their needs and not always acting in a way that works.  Also, if you can do this first you might save yourself a lot of time and trouble because there is a chance that you misperceived their comment or action and are thus reacting to something that didn't exist in the way you thought.

If you don't have space to check in with them, instead of asking for an apology you can ask if they would be willing to hear how that was for you.  Then express your feeling and need (try just one feeling and need at a time) and ask them to say back what they heard.  Most people can respond to this much easier then being asked to apologize.  Though you may both feel disconnected as you do this step it is an important doorway into beginning a connected dialogue.

However you start, the basic elements to reconnect around a difficult situation are the same:

§       Express your observation of what happened and the feelings and needs it brought up for you.  Ask the other person to reflect this back.  Repeat this step until your need for being heard is met.

§       Listen to and reflect back the feelings and needs of the other when they behaved in the way they did until they are heard.

§       Request - brainstorm, identify, and commit to new actions either or both of you can take in a future similar situation so that all needs are met.

Take a moment now to reflect on something someone did or said that didn't meet a need for you.  Let yourself feel the hurt of this and accept the reality of what happened, take a little time to mourn the needs not met and the situation as it happened.  Connect with your longing for how you would like your needs to be met.  You could even imagine the event over again only this time creating your ideal of what would happen.  Then let yourself reflect on what needs the other person might have been trying to meet with their behavior.  What feelings might have been up for him or her?  At the end of this process, notice if you have a do-able request for yourself or the other person.

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5 Responses

  1. Dec 12, 2009
    Tami O'Kinsella

    This is such a different approach to the way I have been groomed. It makes sense to me. I also see why one would choose anger as a way to keep things in their head--analysis--verses the vulnerability of allowing themselves to feel the sadness when one's needs are not met. It is easier and more immediate to blame and keep this stuff at a distance. However, the cost of such ease in the long run as far as the deeper connections for which our soul's hunger is too high. Thanks, LaShelle. Tami

  2. Dec 14, 2009

    This is really interesting. I find apologies for the most part very meaningless and don't get to the real issue underneath. I recently have been locked into a situation where I am refusing to apology - so a bit of a reverse. Unfortunately, this has led to a severed friendship, but I couldn't bring myself to apologize for something I didn't feel bad about. I felt about about how my actions were misunderstood, but not my actions. I really attempted in my unskilled way to bring about the feelings going on for me and tried to solicit them from my friend, but my friend kept questioning me as a lawyer - trying to convince me of a guilt. I didn't know how to untangle myself from that communication. Anywhooo, Thanks for the post!

  3. Dec 15, 2009

    Yea, sounds like a tough situation. I think that most often when folks are lawyering for an apology they are trying to express their hurt and looking for empathy and reassurance. Even if it is a misperception of actions that stimulate the hurt, the hurt is still very real and so wants acknowledgment. Usually when this empathy is given and received, the person can let go enough to examine their interpretation and see that it was inaccurate.

  4. Dec 15, 2009

    Can't that be a bottomless pit though at times? How much empathy is needed from another vs at times the person needs to mend their own hurts vs reliving them through other's actions. In order for a person to let go I think requires a certain amount of self-awareness. The history of this friendship could take pages so I won't go into it. I think sometimes there can be a pattern that develops in relationships (friendships and intimate) that each person takes on that I am not sure how it is broken without assistance of a 3rd party. A pattern where a person takes an apology as a validation they were right vs. an opportunity to reevaluate the situation or see the other person's feelings in the situation. I LOVE this work, but at the same time find it layered with complexity!

  5. Apr 25, 2012

    In fact - you are right, but on some issues, I do not agree with you and would like to discuss them in detail.

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