I've always taken pride in the fact that I'm good at apologies. I'm quick to recognize mistakes, and usually, "I'm sorry" does the trick. But occasionally that can come across as flippant or just a quick way to end an argument. Instead, I've been relying on two other words to begin an apology that immediately set the other person at ease and diffuse the situation.
It sounds simple, but it's surprisingly effective. The other day, Geoffrey weighed himself for the first time in a while. When he told me his weight, a number closer to my own than I'd expected, I blurted out, "That's how much you weigh?" I didn't intend it to be mean, but I regretted it as soon as I saw his face change to hurt and he said, "What if I'd just said that to you?" My reaction stemmed directly from my own insecurity—it had nothing to do with him—and I apologized right away, and explained that I didn't mean it. When I went to therapy that afternoon, still feeling terrible, my therapist asked me to recall what I'd said, then pointed out, "But did you actually say he was right to feel hurt?" He explained that the most important piece of an apology isn't admitting your fault or explaining yourself, but simply acknowledging their feelings. As soon as I got home, I told Geoffrey, "You're right. That was a hurtful thing for me to say." And the situation immediately dispelled.
A few days later, my mom called me out for having a "bratty tone" on the phone (which brought me right on back to the fights we had when I was in high school). I'd had a bad morning and instead of dealing with it properly, I took it out on her. It wasn't anything major, but had I just retorted, "sorry," she probably would have found my apology slightly insincere. Instead, I said, "You're right," which instantly cleared the air. What I didn't expect is that even saying, "you're right" shifted my mindset and put me in a much less defensive position (and one that actually felt badly about the way I'd behaved).
And this applies to so many other delicate situations where someone's feelings are on the line. Whether it's a difficult work situation or a misunderstanding with a friend, begin by acknowledging the other person. If you don't necessarily agree with them, you can say a modified version of, "You're right," like "I understand why you feel that way." This lets them know their feelings are being heard and clears the air while allowing you to be true to yourself, and even occasionally makes an apology unnecessary (which is especially useful for over-apologizers, like myself).
As a parent, I want to lead by example and show Sloan how to properly account for things she's done that are either wrong or have hurt other people. There's this immense pressure as a mom to do everything right, but I think it's important to show her that even I will make mistakes and it's how I handle them that will best demonstrate how she should conduct herself in the future.