Weekly wellbeing links
“To err is human.”
The inspiration for this week’s links came from parent Jennifer Cansfield, who says: “Making mistakes is part of growing up. I think learning how to apologize for the impact your mistakes may have on others is an essential part of holding yourself accountable for your actions. However, it’s a tough life skill to teach.”
The healing after a mistake is made begins with an apology: “a regretful acknowledgement of an offense or failure.” Apologies are essential for a happy life, healthy relationships and personal growth.
The article “Three Components of an Effective Apology” provides clear steps on how to apologize, but begins by looking at why apologizing is so important. Dr. Christine Carter states that “our happiness is best predicted by the breadth and depth of our social connections — our relationships with friends, family, partners, spouses, neighbors, colleagues — and so broken or fraying connections are usually worth repairing.” She goes on to emphasize that “We don’t repair a fissure in one of our relationships by ignoring it, We have a saying in our family: You can sweep sh*t under the rug, but it is still going to smell, and we don’t repair it by blaming someone else, or defending our actions. We initiate a repair by apologizing.”
Role modelling is key for learning how to apologize. This Mind Body Green article, “The Lost Art of Apologizing,” offers a helpful list of approaches to take (number six even has a fill-in-the-blank section), all of which include courage, empathy and vulnerability.
Dr. Harriet Lerner, an expert on this topic and author of the book Why Won’t You Apologize?, claims “‘I’m sorry’ are the two most healing words in the English language.” She believes the gift of an apology is beneficial for the giver (through integrity, health and self-respect) and the receiver (through a release from bitterness). Lerner says that, to get it right, “more than anything, our ability to listen without defensiveness is at the heart of a sincere apology.”
In this concise list, Lerner reminds us that, among other things, a true apology is backed by corrective action and doesn’t include the word “but.”
So, why do we sometimes not apologize? The consensus seems to be a combination of a culture with a fixed mindset that values perfection over failure, as well as Lerner’s observations that we’re “hardwired for defensiveness” and struggle to take responsibility for the impact our actions may have.
In this article, Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading researcher in the area of self-compassion, looks at the impact that a fixed mindset has on our mending after making a mistake. She suggests that “we’re still afraid to admit when we’ve been wrong — it feels like an indictment of our self-worth, and that this is unfortunate, because according to recent research, acknowledging our slipups is critical to recovering from them.”
A point that recurs throughout these articles is that apologizing isn’t about receiving forgiveness and relieving your own guilt. It’s about taking responsibility for one’s behaviour. Forgiveness may come, or may not, but that’s not the goal.
This link is to the summary of a study that explores when and why parents prompt their kids to apologize. It concludes by suggesting that “thoughtfully teaching young children about apologizing is one aspect of teaching them how to be caring and well-regarded members of their communities.”
All you need to do is help your kids (and you) to embrace vulnerability, listen without judgment, value failure over perfection and prioritize relationships. Easy, right?
Here are a few more links to help with that:
Practise parenting with a growth mindset.
Don’t take life (or yourself) too seriously; look for the funny.
Thanks for reading.
Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any comments.
Laurie Fraser, Character Program Director