A Trick That Will Make Your Next Apology Better

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It involves the 1990s Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley. Kind of.

“Research has shown that one way to keep that idealized self-image intact is through self-affirmation, a concept that actually isn’t too far off from Smalley’s “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggone it, people like me!” mantra. A less ridiculous way to go about this is to think about your goals, your values, and the things and people most important to you, Schumann said. So she reasoned that before apologizing, taking a few minutes to indulge in a little self-affirmation could make the experience less painful, which would ultimately lead to a less defensive, more effective apology.

The basic idea is that we are highly motivated to maintain a positive image of ourselves — an image of self-integrity, morality, and adequacy,” Schumann said in an email. And this, she reasons, is why apologizing can suck so very much: Having to admit that our words or actions hurt someone else threatens our image of our ideal self. So it makes sense that so many apologies are so bad. We get defensive, so we justify our behavior, all to protect our egos.”

Read NYMag article by Melissa Dahl

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