Making an Apology and Complaining Effectively

Most people find it difficult to apologise.  It can be a big blow to one’s ego admitting that one might have been wrong about something they said or did.  Our egos cannot cope with the fact that we are not perfect human beings and don’t always make the right decisions or say the right thing.

By the same token, many people have difficulty complaining effectively and tend to avoid confrontation.  Most people don’t like to create a ‘scene’.  The easy way out is avoidance.  They don’t go back to the restaurant where the food or service wasn’t acceptable.  They stop seeing people who said or did something upsetting without saying why.  If you don’t complain effectively, how can the restaurant improve?  If you avoid people who have upset you, how can that person change something about themselves to improve the situation?  If you don’t say what is bothering you, how will the other know that an apology may be in order?

About this time last year, the relationship I was involved with ended.  Just like that.  No dialogue or forewarning.  The most difficult thing about the relationship ending wasn’t the fact that it ended, but knowing why it ended.  I wasn’t given any reason other than the relationship had changed and wasn’t like it was before.  No kidding!  How vague can one be?  No matter how I tried, I really didn’t get anything more than that.  I found it very frustrating and hurtful.  Things weren’t perfect, but what relationship is?  I knew things didn’t feel right for the last few months, but I couldn’t put my finger on it and didn’t know why.  It was just a feeling.

The real problem was communication, or lack of.  I pride myself on being able to communicate effectively.  It has taken me years to develop this skill.  It is important to me to be understood.  Have I made myself clear because I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding? 😉  However, there are times I don’t communicate effectively, or at all.  There are times I don’t like to ‘rock the boat’.  By ‘handling a situation’ rather than being completely and utterly open and honest (I thought I was being mature) about my feelings, I was actually controlling a situation.  My control freak tendencies had not completely dissipated.  It is something I need to work on from time to time.  If I had completely and utterly expressed myself during difficult situations and honoured my feelings, would the relationship have ended sooner?  If my partner communicated to me things that were bothering him as and when they occurred, rather than after he ended the relationship, would the relationship have survived?  We will never know.   However, the relationship lasted as long as it had to in order for me to learn that open and honest communication is the key to any successful relationship.  (Well, I knew that, but didn’t always practice it.)

By not saying what is bothering us, we build up a huge pile of resentment within.  The key is to complain effectively, but many people do not know how.  It is actually very simple.  I wrote about it here.  The Daily Temperature reading teaches us how to communicate effectively at the most basic level.  If you complain, you must follow it up with a recommendation.  This is the nicest way to complain.  You are already telling the other person what is bothering you and you are also telling them what would make you happy.   There are no guarantees that the other will listen effectively or apologise, however, you have opened a door and provided insight.  By the way, I did use this method of communication in my previous relationship, but not always.  In order for it to be effective in relationships, it must be done constantly.

As I stated earlier in this post, the ego can’t handle criticism.  It automatically puts us in defense mode when we come up against any form of criticism or perceived negativity, even when put to us in the nicest possible way.  The ego is what stops us from making an effective apology or any kind of apology at all.  The ego stops us from really listening to the other person and caring about their feelings.  The ego is all about me, me, me!  The ego makes excuses for their behaviour and tries to justify actions.  Sometimes the ego will go on offensive mode and make it seem as if the person doing the complaining is the one with the problem.  It is at this point when things can go horribly wrong and further dialogue becomes useless.  The ego has shut down the situation and has gone into overload.

So, what does one do?

Step 1:  If someone has the courage to tell you what is bothering them and you get a little twinge of ego, pause.  Yes, pause.  Do not react!  Take a deep breath, count to 10, do anything but respond straight away.  Overcome your ego, become pro-active.  Listen!  Look at the other person.  They were very brave to tell you their feelings.  They could have been working on it for days or weeks!  If that person is of some importance in your life, they may have been weighing what the outcome might be, good or bad, and hoping for the best reaction.  Even if they are not that important in your life, that person is a human being with feelings and needs to be listened to.  Acknowledge their humanity.

Step 2:  Look at yourself.  This is one of the most difficult things to do and is one of the most important.  Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  If the other person has ‘hit a nerve’, well, maybe they have a point!   What may be important to the other person might not be so important to you, however, you cannot put your standards onto other people.  If the issue was big enough for the other person to mention it, then it needs to be seriously looked at.  Remember, this isn’t about you!  Well, it might be about something you did or said, but the situation is brought to light by the other person, so this is about them and you need to look at how your words or actions have an effect on others.

Step 3:  Apologise.  Do not make excuses or justifications as it will only null the apology and it won’t be sincere.  This is the most common mistake people make when offering an apology and can cause nothing but further problems.  It is a guarantee to lose friends and alienate people.  If you don’t care about anything other than yourself, then this isn’t going to be a big deal for you.  If you do care about others and feel there may be room for improvement in your personal development and relationships, then this method of apologising can be the easiest to master.

Before writing this article, I already knew the best way to apologise.  I wanted to see what was out there in cyberspace to confirm what I instinctively knew and found this link , one of many.  It is good to know that I can trust my feelings to know when something is right or wrong.

If you are on the receiving end of an apology and it isn’t going quite as well as it should, you need to look at your complaint.  If you complained effectively and the other person is not apologising effectively, then you may need to pause.  We all have choices.  Sometimes people need space and time to reflect on their actions.  If a sincere apology comes our way after an unsuccessful attempt, we have the choice to accept and move on.  Even if it doesn’t, we have the choice to accept and move on.  Either way is a win-win situation.  We either improve relationships with others or we weed out those that drag us down and make room for those that will treat us with respect and consideration.  Best of all, we create a wonderful relationship with ourselves.

Merry Christmas Message 2011

As 2011 draws to a close and we all get ready, or panic, for the holiday festivities, I would just like to pause and reflect.  There are many people who will not be enjoying the holiday celebrations and I would like you to send some kind thoughts to them.  And I am not talking about people who are just grumpy and don’t like Christmas or don’t get along with their families.

Take a minute of your time and tell someone out there that they are not forgotten.  (You can say it in your head)  It doesn’t have to be anyone specific, but I am sure that we all know someone who could benefit from some kind thought.   There are a lot of conflicts and injustices taking place out there in this big world of ours and many people are suffering.  A lot of them probably live near you.  Suffering doesn’t stop for the holidays.  What good will a thought do?  Well, thoughts become things as they are made of energy.  It is not a coincidence when you think about someone and you bump into them on the street or they call you.  If how you think can change your life, then what can your positive thought do for a complete and utter stranger?  Just something to think about.

Because others may be suffering, does this mean than I am not going to enjoy myself over the holidays or for the rest of my life?  Heck no.  Right now I feel particularly grateful that I am in good health and have loving people around me.  We can do a lot for others around us just by being pleasant and kind and having a smile on our face.  Try and be the kind of person that you would want to hang out with.  A brief, positive interaction with a stranger can make a world of difference, for you and/or for them.  Happiness and the pursuit of it is our right.  It is even written into the American Constitution. 🙂  Suffering is not a virtue.  It is a sure sign that something is not right in our world.

And for those of you who think that I don’t get grumpy, or angry or a little bit down sometimes, well, just ask my exes, or my kids.  I’m only human.  However, once I start listing all that I am grateful for, it cheers me right up as I realise how much I have in my life already.  This allows me to be more generous, maybe not so much with my money as I am not working full-time, but I can be generous with my time and a kind word if needed, and by taking stuff to the charity shop (they made a lot of money off of me in gift aid last year!).  And that is how I plan on making things better in my world.  It works for me.

I will be having a quiet Christmas and hopefully a boisterous New Year with a loved one.  My kids are with their Dad, so I might get to see them with Skype.  My parents really don’t do technology, so it will be a phone call, which is the next best thing to being there, but that was before Skype. 🙂

I want to thank all of you who have been reading my blog and hope you all have a wonderful holiday, whichever one you are celebrating.  And for all of you who are having difficulties, I hope that love and joy will find you.  All the best. xx

I’ve Been Critiqued!

I have taken a break from my life drawing and still life classes to focus on other things including homework for the Art Foundation Course.  As encouraging as the tutor was, there wasn’t much structure and I felt that I was missing out on something.  So I’ve decided to work on my own for now.

I feel that I require more direction.  I need to sit with someone and have them show me things and then send me on my way to try it out, there and then.  Leading by example.  I have loads of books now on using the different mediums.  However, as much as I can soak it up in my brain, my hands don’t always know what to do.   I suppose it is no different to learning any other new skill.  You can’t just learn how to do things from books.  You need to go to classes, or learn from another on a one to one basis.  They you need to apply what you have learned.

There is an artist called Michael where my sweetheart lives and he has classes where he shows people how to paint.  He’s admitted that if they want to know how to make a waterfall or a cloud, he will show them how he makes his waterfalls and clouds.  I guess one has to start somewhere.  There are so many ways to make waterfalls, clouds and trees!  But I think if one is given a way, one can eventually find their own way.  When I saw Michael last weekend, there was a lady there copying a painting from a book and he was helping her, giving her direction, which is precisely what I need and felt I have been lacking.  We need a Michael in Eastbourne.

 I am at the ‘I want to draw every detail‘ stage.  Apparently this is quite common for people just learning to draw and paint.   There are some things I love working on the details, such as flowers.  I find the process of drawing the details very therapeutic.  However, I also LOVE paintings of flowers where there is hardly any detail, just an impression.  In some ways it can be more difficult to paint in this way.  It requires a sense of freedom and ease which I haven’t reached yet.  My analytical brain won’t let me right now or I just haven’t mastered how to overcome what my brain is saying.  There are times that I doubt myself and my capabilities.  Sometimes I wonder, what the heck I am doing?  Maybe I should forget it and get a full-time job.  How will doing an Art Foundation course benefit me in my future?  Is there any money in it? (See, this is what comes from having too much free time on my hands and an immigrant background.  My brain goes doo-lally.)  All I know is that if I don’t do the course I will regret it.  I don’t want to regret anything, especially NOT doing something when I have an opportunity.  So what will happen in the future?  Who knows?!  I need to focus on the now.  I really gave myself angst over this recently, so I feel very relieved that I won’t be putting too much attention on the outcomes.  Anything can happen!

My friends and family are very encouraging about my work.  That makes me feel good, but I think they can be biased, which is very nice.  This encouragement keeps me plugging along.  There have been things I have been very happy about with regard to my paintings, and yet I still felt something was lacking and couldn’t put my finger on it.  I went to see Nigel Greaves at his gallery this morning on my way to the seafront.  His paintings are varied and vibrant.  He paints in acrylic, pastels and watercolours.  He paints boats, flowers, still life, seascapes and abstracts.  Nigel has been painting for over 40 years.  He studied art and was taught the foundations.  He still paints every morning.  He can paint the same thing over and over and each painting will be different.  I like to look at his paintings for inspiration.  I actually own one now. If you are ever in Eastbourne, his gallery is worth looking at and it is right near The Towner Gallery.

I told Nigel that I have taken up painting and he had a look on my blog.  He made some comments.  They weren’t harsh, but they were very direct.  Actually, they could have been worse.  The problem is my perspective and background.  I could see immediately what he meant as he was talking about each picture.  He made a few suggestions and then showed me examples in his own work, which I love.  This was exactly what I needed, an objective eye.  We discussed planning each painting in a sketch prior to painting.  He showed me an example.  I have read about this in books, but now it really clicks.  All of this took about 10 minutes.  I learned more in these 10 minutes than I learned these last few months.  This is one reason why I am going to do the Art Foundation course.  I need to learn how to do things and have someone honestly criticise my work.  It isn’t about them telling me what is crap about the piece, but how it can be improved to make a better picture.  Working with others means that people can bounce ideas off of each other.

I have been told to re-work some of my pictures based on what was discussed today.  That should keep me busy for a while!