So, here you are. You have done something that has hurt another. You feel horrible. You just want to fix things. Make everything all better. What should you say? What can you say?
First of all, talk. Talk to the person. Communication is key. You can’t run away from your mistakes. Tell them you are sorry. Be genuine. Don’t back up your “I’m sorry” with an excuse. You hurt someone. Take ownership. Ask them how they feel? Ask them what you can say to make things better. Listen to what they have to say. Look them in the eyes. Make sure you are in a quiet, uninterrupted space. Ask them, explain to them how you can/will, change your actions in the future. This will help to open the door to how things might be repaired, if they are able.
So often we apologize and then immediately jump into defending ourselves. We are trying to justify our actions and make ourselves feel better, but what is that saying to the other person? By justifying our actions we are saying we had a right to hurt this person. Of course, you want to protect yourself, but you still hurt another and you should take ownership of that mistake. Acknowledge you were wrong. No one is perfect. We all do things we wish we could take back. Look at how you have wronged another and grow. Learn. Really, truly apologize.
Depending on how you hurt this person, and who the person is, repairing this relationship might be easy or impossible. But, regardless, of the end game. The best thing you can do to show another that they are valued and didn’t deserve what you did to them is to buck up and admit you were not right. End the excuses.
There is a difference between being nice and being genuinely kind. Being nice is on the surface. It is superficial, pleasing, and agreeable. It is making people happy around you but not necessarily meaning it. It is not authentic, not deep, and not always true.
Being kind goes deeper
Rather than “being nice” as you have been told since you were a child, practice kindness. Being kind goes deeper. It is the practice of being compassionate and authentic. It is establishing healthy boundaries and truly meaning what you say, what you do. When we reach the point of just “being nice” we are damaging our relationships and creating unhealthy situations for ourselves. Running errands for a neighbor “just to be nice” or volunteering at an event “just to be nice” establishes unhealthy boundaries.
When we, instead, do things out of deep-seeded kindness from within, it means we genuinely care about what we are doing. We have a vested interest in how things turn out and the people around us can see that. It means we aren’t just doing things because we feel like we have to, we are doing them because we really truly want to do them. We really want to bring the neighbor dinner, we really want to help with the shopping for the school event, we want to help a friend out with a project, or hold the door open for a stranger.
Avoid teaching your children to “just be nice.” Instead, explain to them what it means to be kind and to establish healthy boundaries with that kindness. Teach them how it feels to truly be helpful and to want to do good things for others. In turn, you are teaching them to be genuine, to be truthful and to take care of themselves. You are not teaching them to overextend themselves for the mere purpose of “being nice.” You are teaching them to dig deep inside themselves and determine what they can do to be good people, not superficial or fake.
It might feel like a thin line but chances are you can think of a few times in your life you have just been nice and differentiate between the times you truly meant what you were doing—those times you were being kind.
How do you practice kindness?
I have a client who recently moved to the East Coast. She lives in a very loud, busy, and overstimulating area. As with anyone moving to a new place, she was going through a period of adjustment and forming new friendships, trying to find her place.
In reaction to her fear of being lonely, she surrounded herself with people, any people. During a mindless event with one of these groups of people—who she didn’t really jive with—she opened her eyes, looked around, excused herself and walked away. She had a revelation of sorts—she didn’t need these people to fill in her blanks, to make her feel less alone. She realized she was sacrificing herself having to pretend she was something she wasn’t. She was sacrificing her authenticity, and at what cost?
You don’t need to sacrifice yourself
It is ok to walk away. It is the genuine connections in our lives, the people we feel comfortable being ourselves with that add to our happiness, our wellbeing as people. Sacrificing who you are just to be surrounded with people will only leave you feeling more alone. Don’t be afraid to walk away and find those people that lift you up, that expand your horizons, without sacrificing who you are. You don’t need to be dependent on other people for your happiness. You are in control of your own happiness. You need to dig deep inside and surround yourself with the things you love. Embrace your hobbies, take time to do the things that make you feel alive inside.
Find the people that share your values and will appreciate you for you. If you are a person who appreciates art, take an art class; if you like to exercise, join a gym or running group; if you like computers or video games, join a club; if you like to read, join a book club; if you like music, go to concerts. In time, you will find the people that see you and love you for who you really are. Don’t sacrifice yourself because you are afraid of the future, or afraid of how it feels to be by yourself. Love yourself, and do what you love. The rest will follow.