Author Topic: What to do when an apology is not accepted  (Read 6082 times)

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Flibbertigibbet

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What to do when an apology is not accepted
« on: January 13, 2014, 07:01:17 AM »
Something happened this weekend which I'd appreciate Ehellions views on: I'm not sure that I reacted particulalrly well, but I'm also not sure what else I should have done  :(. By way of background, I have a very close relationship with both of my parents, and visit them at least a couple of times a month, sometimes every weekend.

This weekend I went to see them, and we were discussing a political hot topic (I will say what if asked, but I don't think it's necessarily relevant). We generally have similar political outlooks so it wasn't an argument waiting to happen. In the course of discussion I noticed that my dad had gone quiet and wasn't engaging anymore, so I asked him if I'd upset him. He said yes, and that something I'd said in the course of the discussion (again I am happy to say what, but am not sure its relevant to the question - the point is, I upset him) had upset him. I immediately apologised and said I had meant nothing at all by my comment, certainly not directed at him, and that I was really very sorry. He just nodded and still wouldn't talk to me. Mum and I carried on talking abut something else for another 15 minutes or so, then mum got up to do something in the other room. I then tried to apologise to dad again, and he just told me he was shocked that I'd said what I had, and went back to ignoring me.

Now, I'm 34 (nearly!) and this has never happened before (sure I've had arguments with my parents over the years, but nothing to the extent that they've stopped speaking to me, even temporarily. We are very very close.). I didn't know what to do and was absolutely horrified that I'd upset my dad so badly (unintentionally, but still).

This is where I'm not sure I behaved so well - I then got up from the room I was in and went to find mum - and promptly burst into tears  :-[, and asked if I should go home as I didn't know what to do. Mum gave me a big hug and then went to dad and said I was going home, and he came to the other room immediately and said he didn't want me to go. I then tried to calm down and then stayed for the rest of the day - dad was subdued, but then at least still talking to me.

My question is therefore whether I was wrong in suggesting I leave/showing the emotion I felt (I don't normally react like that - crying for me is a big deal) because looking back on it, I'm not sure that it might have been perceived as 'upping the ante'/'if you don't do want I want I'm taking my ball and going home', so dad was forced into backing down. It wasn't meant that way at all - i just thought I should go if I'd so badly offended - but with hindsight I'm now concerned I've made things worse :(.

Would I have been better to try not to react and stay and hope that dad came round of his own accord, or should I have accepted the non-acceptance of my apology and left immediately? Any advice? Thanks in advance!

Oh Joy

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Re: What to do when an apology is not accepted
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2014, 07:10:11 AM »
Rough weekend for you - sorry.  Sounds like your father thought you had one outlook on something,  found out you had a different one, and was trying to process the difference in values between himself and his much-loved and respected daughter.  Was that the tone of his silence, or was it more punitive?

Teenyweeny

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Re: What to do when an apology is not accepted
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2014, 07:21:13 AM »
I used to have a problem with this as well.

Finally my wife had to say to me, "Look, I get that you're sorry. And I do forgive you, but I'm still upset. I'll probably be upset for a little while."

Lightbulb! Just because you are sorry, the other person doesn't stop being upset. It doesn't mean that they haven't accepted your apology, it's just that the apology doesn't take away their sadness or anger right away (although it can mitigate it).

Now, in these situations, I apologise once, and sincerely. I then leave it alone, because nothing is more annoying than somebody pressing for forgiveness. If my wife is really angry, or indicates that she'd like me to leave, I leave. If she will permit me to comfort her, then I comfort her. Otherwise, I just busy myself with something else (bonus points if it's getting her a cup of tea or something :) ). In other words, I wait for her to calm down. Then when she seems to be feeling better (and if she still hasn't brought up the topic), I say something like, "Are you OK? I'm still really sorry about X. Hug?"

I find this approach minimises hurt feelings on both sides, and keeps the drama scaled back!


« Last Edit: January 13, 2014, 08:02:45 AM by Teenyweeny »



Flibbertigibbet

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Re: What to do when an apology is not accepted
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2014, 07:46:11 AM »
Thanks for the responses - it felt to me like a 'punitive' silence - but then that may have just been my interpretation. The reason dad was upset with what I said was (from what he's said since) that he thought I was implying he was stupid  :(

Flibbertigibbet

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Re: What to do when an apology is not accepted
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2014, 07:49:41 AM »
Teenyweeny - I agree that this might have been the best approach. I suppose I was just so shocked! Thank you.

kategillian

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Re: What to do when an apology is not accepted
« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2014, 07:55:27 AM »
It sounds like you and your dad are close. Is it possible that this is the first time that he realized that your and his world views differed on something that he considered important? Maybe he was processing that.

camlan

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Re: What to do when an apology is not accepted
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2014, 08:05:51 AM »
You are allowed to  have different views from your parents. You are allowed to be your own person. Parents do not always like what their children do or think or believe--they are allowed their feelings.

It sounds like you are close to your parents and do not want to upset them. But you don't have to hide your beliefs from them, either.

You said something that upset your father. Your father choose to make this noticeable. Then you apologized for upsetting him. He chose to continue the silent treatment. You apologized again. He made his extreme pleasure with your beliefs known.

Honestly, I think giving an adult the silent treatment is a bit over the top. You are 34--has your father never disagreed with you before? The silent treatment is, IMO, a pretty serious way to show disapproval. And it certainly got the reaction your father seems to have been looking for--you starting crying at his treatment of you. I get the sense that he felt hurt and then wanted you to feel the same hurt.

I don't think there was any one correct way of handling the situation. Your father's behavior seems to indicate that he was hoping you'd have a reaction--to continue the silent treatment after you apologized. A more adult approach would have been to say that he was upset--maybe even come right out then and there with the bit about how he thought you said he was stupid, so that the two of you could clear the air. Or acknowledging your apology and then changing the subject or leaving the room so he prevent himself from being rude to you by subjecting you to the silent treatment.

Frankly, I think you handled the situation as best you could. Your father on the other hand, seems to have been sulking like a child.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


Teenyweeny

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Re: What to do when an apology is not accepted
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2014, 08:09:59 AM »
You are allowed to  have different views from your parents. You are allowed to be your own person. Parents do not always like what their children do or think or believe--they are allowed their feelings.

It sounds like you are close to your parents and do not want to upset them. But you don't have to hide your beliefs from them, either.

You said something that upset your father. Your father choose to make this noticeable. Then you apologized for upsetting him. He chose to continue the silent treatment. You apologized again. He made his extreme pleasure with your beliefs known.

Honestly, I think giving an adult the silent treatment is a bit over the top. You are 34--has your father never disagreed with you before? The silent treatment is, IMO, a pretty serious way to show disapproval. And it certainly got the reaction your father seems to have been looking for--you starting crying at his treatment of you. I get the sense that he felt hurt and then wanted you to feel the same hurt.

I don't think there was any one correct way of handling the situation. Your father's behavior seems to indicate that he was hoping you'd have a reaction--to continue the silent treatment after you apologized. A more adult approach would have been to say that he was upset--maybe even come right out then and there with the bit about how he thought you said he was stupid, so that the two of you could clear the air. Or acknowledging your apology and then changing the subject or leaving the room so he prevent himself from being rude to you by subjecting you to the silent treatment.

Frankly, I think you handled the situation as best you could. Your father on the other hand, seems to have been sulking like a child.

This too. My advice was meant more generally. You are allowed to disagree with people. A corollary to my advice would be "just because somebody is upset, doesn't mean you did anything wrong".



cicero

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Re: What to do when an apology is not accepted
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2014, 08:20:00 AM »
It sounds like you and your dad are close. Is it possible that this is the first time that he realized that your and his world views differed on something that he considered important? Maybe he was processing that.
that's exactly what i was thinking - i remember when i had to gently 'educate' my father when he couldn't understand why i didn't agree with him on something. and i remember when i realized that my own DS was ... well , a person, with his *own* views and morals.

I don't think either of you handled it badly.

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Flibbertigibbet

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Re: What to do when an apology is not accepted
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2014, 08:37:19 AM »
Thanks all - I can understand why some posters are suggesting the 'different world view' scenario - but in this instance, dad and I have disagreed on many many things in the past and he has never reacted like this. I'm not a shrinking violet by any means when it comes to that.

His explanation afterwards was that he took what I considered to be an objective debate as a personal attack. I acknowledge that I defend an argument vigorously, I always have, and I need to be more careful about that, clearly! However, dad knows that (obviously - I've always been the same), and it was just shocking to me that he both reacted the way he did, and also ascribed the worst possible motive to what I said, rather than 'oh that's just Flibbertigibbet getting on her high horse again - it's not directed at me personally'.

Food for thought - I shall certainly avoid that type of discussion in future and be very much more careful about what I talk about with dad. It makes me sad that I have to; but I'd rather that than upset him. The silent treatment to me was a huge huge reaction - which is probably why I also reacted in the extreme (tears etc). I need to think about that too and try and temper my reactions I think. I don't like drama!

bopper

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Re: What to do when an apology is not accepted
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2014, 09:01:47 AM »
On the other hand, your dad might have the opposite opinion as you on ControversialTopic.  He decided not to fight verbally with you but just kept quiet. 

m2kbug

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Re: What to do when an apology is not accepted
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2014, 09:23:10 AM »
I can certainly understand your worry but it doesn't sound to me like you were behaving like a little spoiled brat.  You reacted emotionally to something that hurt you that had never happened to you before.  It is very painful to be given the silent treatment.  If this is something that ever occurs again, you'll start to get used to it to a degree and you won't react quite as emotionally.  I think it's pretty cruel to completely shut down and exhibit such levels of anger when you don't even know what you did wrong (or if you did anything wrong at all), but sometimes people just need a little space to process their own feelings, and you can back off a little.  I think it's important that they speak up and say what's wrong as soon as possible, though, instead of leaving you hanging or allowing the situation to fester, so I'm glad Dad spoke up and stated what was wrong.  I don't know if he'll react this way again, but if it does happen, you can just apologize and leave him to have his space.  I would probably just stick with Mom and chat with her.  You could explain to Mom what happened so later when Dad is still upset, she knows what's going on.  I would still probably cut the visit short, but try not to do so angrily or running out the door in tears.  You could apologize to Dad again on your way, and suggest talking about it later if he wishes.  Hopefully things will get back to normal pretty quickly. 

Also, when topics like this come up, I usually just walk away or ask not to talk about this topic.  I am always on the other side of the opinion.  If this was a situation where your dad quieted down and just didn't wish to engage, you can take this as a cue to change topics. 

I don't think you did anything wrong and your reaction was perfectly normal. 

Virg

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Re: What to do when an apology is not accepted
« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2014, 09:34:12 AM »
My take on it is that you did the best you could with a mixed message.  Your father got upset with you, and despite your apology, ignored you until you decided to leave.  Then he told you that he didn't really want you to leave, but ignoring a guest really does send the message that they're no longer welcome.  Given that, there's really not a lot else you could have done in this situation.

Virg

Twik

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Re: What to do when an apology is not accepted
« Reply #13 on: January 13, 2014, 09:41:40 AM »
My take on it is that you did the best you could with a mixed message.  Your father got upset with you, and despite your apology, ignored you until you decided to leave.  Then he told you that he didn't really want you to leave, but ignoring a guest really does send the message that they're no longer welcome.  Given that, there's really not a lot else you could have done in this situation.

Virg

This. "Sit here while I show my displeasure by ignoring you" isn't particularly polite.
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mspallaton

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Re: What to do when an apology is not accepted
« Reply #14 on: January 13, 2014, 11:02:25 AM »
Meaning no disrespect to your father as a person - but his behavior was appalling in this instance.  You describe an open relationship in which this topic has not previously been off limits and yet, at 34 years old, your comment upset him so much he sulked and pouted like a child?  I doubt very highly, if you didn't even know which comment caused the reaction initially (which from your story you didn't) that what you said could be considered objectively offensive.

While he has a right to be offended if he feels that way, he handled it exactly wrong and went way overboard on driving the point home.  You shouldn't worry about the etiquette of having an emotional reaction to what he did - you handled yourself the best you could.  Unlike the silent treatment, which is 100% the CHOICE of the person doing it, your genuine emotional reaction was not controllable.

Like other posters, I'm sorry you had to deal with that.  My honest recommendation would be to give the silent treatment the exact amount of respect and deference it deserves.  Which is to say: none.  If you said or did something offensive - apologize.  But once you've done that, your father can get over it or die mad.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2014, 11:05:33 AM by mspallaton »