How Apologies Are Actually Good For You
Refusal to apologize is often a forecasting error by the sender that harms the recipient.
Just yesterday, I ate two delicious slices of my partner’s leftover Papa John’s pizza, not knowing it was her only dinner food. It was an error of neglect and presumption on my part.
Three months earlier, we had a phone call and she warned, “I’ll be on a work call when you get home. Please be mindful of that.” Hours later, and having completely forgotten, I opened the front door and shouted, “Hello m’lady!” I proceeded to hoot like an excited chimp swinging from a branch (I often act nutty at the house for fun).
Six months before that, I took a small dryer ball, and attempted to shoot it like a basketball into her lap while she was reading on my couch. I forgot my terrible hand eye coordination and the ball hit her in the face. She looked up, with tears in her eyes, and a wave of guilt slammed into me.
For all of these things, I apologized, and did so with the utmost sincerity and intent to do better. After all, no apology matters if the behavior remains intact. This should be trivial, obvious knowledge that any rational person understands. But it is such a common source of pain.
Many years prior, I was in a relationship with an otherwise kind and beautiful woman. Things eventually teetered south between us over the course of several unfortunate incidents.
For example, we were in a minor dispute, the cause of which I can’t even remember. And then, suddenly, she lost her temper and smashed my Bluetooth speaker in plain sight. To say I was shocked at the sudden outburst, would be a gross understatement. And yet, in this obvious case of overreach, she still refused to apologize. Days later, after things had cooled down, I asked, “Do you still think it’s appropriate not to apologize?” She said, “Yes.”
“Why is that? I apologize to you when I make mistakes,” I said, insistently. She locked up and blurted out, “I don’t care.” There was a stunning lack of reciprocity between us and I grew to resent her and the piling up of wrongs that were never mended.