The use of an apology can prevent up to 90% of the conflicts with friends or strangers. It just may not work as well with relatives, but it will still attenuated strains significantly.
An apology must be used only when you make a mistake, but rather when make them too. If someone bumps you in the subway, you are certain that it was the other person’s fault, however you say: “I’m sorry”. The other person will likely apologize too! Or, if the other person is convinced that it was your fault, they may say “it’s ok”. The gains in your short and long term heath resulting from the avoidance a conflict with strangers, with friends or relatives is priceless.
So, let us attempt a psychological re-education. You may have learned that when others make mistakes, it is their responsibility to apologize. Now you will re-learn: when you make a mistake you apologize, and when others make a mistake you apologize as well.
Never say, “Did you not understand what I just said?” Instead of this indelicate phrase, solemnly declare: “I am sorry. I think I did not express myself well”.
What about circumstances where taking responsibility could cost you a tidy sum? For example, you could be in a traffic accident, you are certain it was the other driver’s fault! But he is also sure that it was yours … Why don’t you take the blame and apologize? Your insurance pays will pay regardless. You are uninsured? Well, I am not writing to you. Everyone has to have all insurances, for your car, your home, your life, your health. Whomever does not have it is so shortsighted that it would make no sense to read a text like this. And please, do not claim that you have no money right now, that excuse doesn’t work. You could have bought a car marginally cheaper and insured it easily with the savings.
But what about the law and justice? How can you take responsibility for something which is not your fault? Would this not be a merely cowardly attitude? On the contrary! It definitely takes greater courage and dignity to assume your own culpability, but it is even greater if you assume someone else’s. This is what numerous national saints and heroes have done, people with a high sense of humanitarian commitment, to a point of self-sacrificing their ego and sometimes even their life.
However, before you are ready to use the apology strategy you must eliminate the typical guilt found in former colonies. In Latin America, “desculpa-me” (excuse me) is said with humility and inferiority, while in the colonizing countries this phrase is used to exert superiority over the person being talked to.
In France, the phrase “pardon M’sier” is used as a resource with someone who has been indelicate, or has had some other form of bad behavior in any circumstance.
In England, and other English speaking countries, “I beg your pardon” can be used as an admonition with superiority and elegance with someone who has been impertinent or arrogant or has done something wrong.
In both cases, the person who has apologized did so with their head held high, with an attitude of someone who is superior to the other. The apology is used to downgrade the listener, forcing the response to be a justification. In the case of English, the person is instigated to modify their statement. For example, if the person had said: ” Did you removed the object that was here?” saying “I beg your pardon” has the power to change the attitude of the accuser to something like: “I’m sorry, what I meant was, that you may have inadvertently stumbled and dropped the object in question.” You can immediately notice a stark difference in attitude of the colonizer and the colonized by the way they apologize.
As I am writing to readers who have traveled and are cosmopolitan (if it is not the case, you will soon be, through reading of my books), I propose that you assume a posture of elevated self-esteem when using the apology strategy. In doing so, you will not be humiliating or stooping yourself, on the contrary, you will be thinking to yourself: “I have controlled the situation and I dominated this brute before me. I am pleased for having been able to do it with an intelligent management of my resources. In the cost vs. benefit equation, I have saved time and stress, and finally I have been elegant to a person who may be useful in the future.”