It was the middle of snack time in kindergarten where most children are in their own worlds with their friends, totally submerged in their little activities. Well, except Mike and Luke. Luke can be found in the corner by the swings with his bottom lip stretched out. It was stretched so much that all those on the furthest tip of the island could see it. It was a strange sight as usually he’d be paired with his bud, Mike. Nothing could separate the two- until today. Soon enough Mike approached Luke with Ms. Hudgens, their teacher. Mike’s expression mirrored Luke’s with tear-stained cheeks. Awkwardness filled the air.
“Go on, Mike. ” urged Ms. Hudgens from behind. “You know what to do.”
Both boys exchanged glances before Luke quickly looked down on the sand beneath his feet.
“I’m sorry, Luke.”
“For what?” Ms. Hudgen’s continued urging the boy.
“For taking your snack.”
Hearing this, Luke looked up to find a piece of a PB sandwich being offered to him. Immediately, the heaviness dissipated and a small smile replaced Luke’s pout.
I’m sure you can imagine the rest of the story- you probably lived a similar moment at some point of your childhood.
When we were young, we’re commanded to repeat the words “I’m sorry (enter a name here)” then move along with the rest of your day. All is well in the world again. While this may be a goodish foundation (action wise) for conflict management, it can be a lot more tricky as an adult now.
First, examine the nature of an apology. It’s a product when conflict exists. Conflict is born from a matter of differences or an action that may have inflicted harm (physical/emotional/mental) to another party (The key word here is differences). Now, we live in a world that is very much aware of said word. Nothing is homogeneous (never was really). With “cancel culture” and the quickness to block anything that’s different from what we think , we now have a new norm that has affected the nature of apologies.
It could become performative- for the sake of not being ‘canceled’ or being seen as the bad guy. Where’s the heart in it? Are those two words really enough?
Sometimes it’s a matter of identifying the source of the conflict, acknowledging and working towards a solution that both parties can agree with. But even this moral equation can be challenging.
What if I’m the one that's right? They’re definitely in the wrong!
That’s a load of crap. She definitely doesn’t mean that. She’s just trying to save face.
Watch how he’s gonna do the exact same thing in a week.
These are some of the things that arise within a conflict. An apology is definitely part of the solution. So why is it so hard? I’d like to think there are several factors involved, but you got to ask yourself:
How much do I value this friendship/relationship/partnership with this person?
Why has this affect them so much?
Will this affect the safety of those I love?
Will this matter in 5 years time?
A certain level of introspection is needed if you and the other party want to get past this conflict in a healthy manner. Reflect on where the other party’s coming from as well as where your actions are coming from. It’s during this little reflective process that you can come to an understanding on all grounds and grow as a person.
If there’s a lot at stake, maybe the apology is worth extending (and receiving!).
In the earlier scenario, Mike took Luke’s snack. Perhaps this was out of jealousy or a way of teasing Luke. Luke wasn’t happy with this and now their friendship is on the line. Mike could have stopped talking to Luke and tried to find a new friend, but he didn't. Why? It’s because he valued his friendship with Luke, they’re basically brothers. The apology would be worth it.
Of course, that was a simple situation. An apology is just one element of conflict management. You still have the necessary actions after an apology. Nevertheless, without making an effort to make an apology, the existence of the conflict will persist.
The question is, will you let it persist? Or will you get past this and give the apology?