The long way around

When we learn a new language, we start to see words as short-cuts, or bridges. What once took ten words to say now takes one. Wow, that one new word just made my life a lot easier!

In behavior, too, we constantly learn new “vocabulary” in order to make life easier. Empathy, for example, is not a default program; it actually has to be learned. Instead of offending people by telling them how they should feel, now we can experience what they feel alongside them. We make our best friends that way. Listening is a great time-saver too, it keeps us from having to read people’s minds later. And laughter saves us from a thousand misunderstandings; we simply make a joke to test the water. It’s the easiest way to find out if someone really meant what you thought they meant. Why get offended if it was only a bad choice of words?

But where I see most of us needlessly complicating our lives can be learned in one minute. Life becomes so much easier once we simply learn to apologize.

Let’s say you and I are friends; I just made a simple mistake, and you simply point it out to me. You’re not accusing me, per se… perhaps you’re only telling me how I made you feel. Maybe you’ve simply asked me not to do it again, or to do it in a different, more collaborative way next time.

Now, if I don’t apologize­ – and I want you to watch this when this happens to you – I will actually be forced by my mind to spend the rest of the day trying to convince myself that it really wasn’t a mistake, and inventing justifications for why I did it. After refining my excuses for hours on end, and then delivering them to you, I will wonder why you don’t soften and treat me as kindly as before. I will then spend the next few days trying to convince the both of us that our relationship hasn’t been hurt in the slightest, and wonder why you don’t seem to be in agreement.

Friend, save yourself a lot of trouble next time. Don’t take the long way around, simply say “I’m sorry,” save your friendship and – as a special gift to yourself – free your mind for the next 72 hours.

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