Last week, I received a question from a reader about how to handle pressure from friends or family to apologize sooner rather than later. The question was posed in a comment on 11 Ways To Make Your Apologies More Meaningful and Effective. Here’s the comment:
Great post! You really dug deep to define the meaning of a true apology. What was really interesting was how you mentioned not to apologize until you truly feel sorry.
On multiple occasions I have seen people apologize due to pressure from their friends/family circle, even if they truly didn’t feel sorry. Eventually, leading to greater conflict down the road. What would be an ideal way to handle a situation like this? ~Bobby Saini
This is certainly a tricky situation. You are sort of caught between a rock and a hard place. We all want to please our friends and family to avoid creating an additional issue with them. However, apologizing before one really feels sorry is hard to pull off. You may come across as insincere. A bad apology can worsen the situation. It may even prolong the time before a reconciliation can be achieved.
The relationship factor adds complexity
This question brings to light a powerful point. We are all interconnected. Relationships do not exist in a vacuum. When we experience conflict with another individual, it usually impacts more than just the two people involved. These situations frequently arise between people with common friends or family. The friends or family hear of the discord and become concerned. They want to help repair the relationship. They know that a good apology will usually fix things. It is only natural for them, out of their concern, to recommend apologizing to one or both parties.
However, what friends and family usually discount is the emotions involved. Those that aren’t directly involved in the situation are looking at it from a logical standpoint. They aren’t experiencing the powerful emotions involved when two people are at odds with one another. They often don’t understand the reluctance to apologize. They just want the conflict to be over. They exert their influence to try to hasten a return to peace.
How I would handle the pressure to apologize.
First, let me say that I am no expert in the field of human relationships. Of course, I do have a lot of experience with apologizing. I’m not sure if that helps or hurts my credibility, but either way, I’m still going to share my thoughts on how I would handle this situation.
Even though I know it is difficult, I would still resist the temptation to apologize before I was truly ready. I would try to explain to my friends or family that although an apology may be due, I was not ready yet. I know that the pressure may intensify, but I am pretty sure that waiting until I know I am ready is the best course of action. I have a hard time hiding my feelings when I’m upset. I would not want this to come through in any way when I render an apology. Therefore, I could stick pretty tightly to my conviction on this.
Of course, while I was waiting, I would continue to keep the lines of communication open with my friends and family to let them know that I was not simply ignoring their advice. I would update them regularly on my feelings and seek their continued advice. Hopefully, by keeping them involved, I would avoid any conflict with them.
What would your recommendation be in this situation?
How would recommend handling this situation? What have I missed? I hope you will help me make some additional suggestions so we can all learn how to better handle this situation in the future. Please share any experiences you have had that might shed light on how this type of pressure to apologize can be dealt with more effectively.
Photo by Ed Yourdon