Monday, March 30, 2009

When do you say you're sorry?

Saying sorry to someone is a fine line. First, you want to be wrong. Second, you want the other person to be right. Then, I believe, you can feel like you are in a position to say that you are sorry. If you are just guessing that the other person is right then that, of course, no longer makes the fact that you are wrong seem so factual any more. Then there is the case of not admitting you are wrong for fear of not setting a precedent. This is the worst kind of situation to be in when it comes time to resolve an argument. I have always felt that saying sorry to someone early on helps to ease the tension and pave the way towards a resolution and start up discussion. However, I'm discovering that standing up for yourself and blindly standing by what you've done or said even when inside you don't feel like it was the best thing to happen is the only way to resolve a situation. Everyone is bounding through life attempting to fulfill their own ambitions. Either you stick up for yours or everyone else is going to pile on top.

So is it better to say you are sorry all of the time or should you pick and choose your moments carefully? Observing those around me, I've seen all shades of the apology gradient. Those that constantly apologize garner no respect although they are seen as "nice" and those that never apologize are seen as stubborn, but at least they are always getting what they want! In business, at home and with friends, it's becoming more about setting your position amongst your peers. With the right blend of arrogance and humility you can push people when you need to and lavish them with praise when they are down. If you've played your arrogant cards right then when the time comes to delivery an apology or a bit of praise, the affect is all the more magnified. In the "Naked and the Dead" that I'm reading now it describes the general's philosophy is ensure that everyone knows their spot by encouraging the officers to flaunt their superiority. The affect is to garner respect from the foot soldiers and turn their fear / anger towards the enemy. The author describes this as the means towards an effective army. Seeing the relationship between two friends develop over the years I see the same strategy being put into use before my very eyes.

So in these situations where one person is more dominant than the other the alpha rarely apologies and almost never needs to because that would mean they are wrong and weaken their position, so instead they continue to defend their position. That said, you need to have a good head on your shoulders to be able to argue the merits or make up merits in the event that there are none for what you have done. I've seen and been the source of many a failed flank or counterattack. You had better be able to back up what your are arguing if you are going down the road of most resistance. That road can be the most rewarding if you play your cards right as you are sure to enhance your status and position.

The time to say sorry, I believe, comes at a time when you are looking right the scales that you feel are tilting too much in your direction or when you are clearly in the wrong. Saying you are sorry for the sake of pushing beyond an awkward moment, however, does not do anyone any good in the long run, so choose your words carefully.

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