While changed behavior is certainly the desired outcome of the apology, I think that without an actual spoken or written “I’m sorry,” the aggrieved party is still on the hook for the feelings. You know?
Have you ever been hurt by someone, and when his/her behavior just magically changed for the better, you said, “I guess that’s his/her way of apologizing”? I know I have, on more than one occasion. But not only is that giving the perp a get-out-of-jail-free card, it’s also withholding ultimate closure of the matter from the victim.
Now, that said, I don’t require a sonnet or a treatise or begging on bended knee. Sometimes, changed behavior is totally an appropriate gesture. Still, when I hurt someone, I feel compelled to look him/her in the face and make it right. I always told my sons to apologize without uttering the word but, because once you do that, the person you’re apologizing to stops listening, as you’ve turned an “I’m sorry” into a “here’s why you made me do this,” to wit:
I’m sorry that what I said hurt you, but I was having a bad day, and your complaining just pushed me over the edge. To me, everything after the “but” negates everything before it. It’s all about empathy (the ability to understand the feelings of another; the ability to “put oneself in another’s shoes”), and sometimes — just sometimes — we need to put the feelings of others in front of our own.
Other people may be fine with just a 180 on behavior because it delivers the desired result, and feelings don’t really enter into it. Anyone who knows me knows it doesn’t work that way up here. I gotta feel all the feelings, both for me and for everyone else. I guess I’d rather use the old Golden Rule as a general guide, you know? I like this graphic.
So those are my RNFs for today. Happy Sumday! I hope you’re relaxing, wherever you are.