I recently read Randy Pausch's Last Lecture. It's a poignant book written by a Carnegie Mellon Computer Science professor who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given just a few months to live. In the book Pausch talks about his life and some very simple lessons he's learned that he passes along to his children and to the rest of us.
The chapters are brief but Pausch packs a lot into them. My three favorites, I think, are the chapters on Thank You Notes, Gratitude and Apologies. Anyone who has teenage children will find what Pausch has to offer here worth passing on to their kids.
For example on apologies he says this:
Apologies are not pass/fail. I always told my students: When giving an apology, any performance lower than an A really doesn't cut it. Half-hearted or insincere apologies are often worse than not apologizing at all because recipients find them insulting. If you've done something wrong in your dealings with another person, it's as if there's an infection in your relationship. A good apology is like an antibiotic; a bad apology is like rubbing salt in the wound.
He goes on to give examples of two classic bad apologies:
1. "I'm sorry you feel hurt by what I've done." (This is an attempt at an emotional salve but it's obvious you don't want to put any medicine in the wound.)
2. "I apologize for what I did, but you also need to apologize to me for what you've done." (That's not giving an apology. That's asking for one.)
And then he offers this:
Proper apologies have three parts:
1. What I did was wrong.
2. I feel badly that I hurt you.
3. How do I make this better.
Good stuff. If you've ever gotten a huffy "Well, I'm sorrrrry" from a teenager when you were hoping for a sincere apology then you'll immediately see the value of Pausch's little homily.RLC