Title: Why won’t you apologize?
Author: Harriet Lerner
Publisher: Duckworth Overlook
Pages: 195; Price: Rs 499
Apologising is an art. If done right, it can lead to a peaceful life. If otherwise, it can lead to a lifetime of uncomfortable silences with those who once were an important part of life.
In a fast-paced life, when people are involved in a cutthroat rat race, seldom do they slow down or pause to apologise to those who may have been hurt by them, intentionally or otherwise. “Apologise? Why should I?” is a fairly common question. Why is apologising so difficult? And, finally, when one does manage to come up with an apology, what does the other party do? It dismisses the apology altogether without sparing a thought for the guts taken by the apologizer to own up to his/ her perceived mistake.
How does one learn this art? Also, isn’t an apology all about saying ‘I’m sorry’ and meaning it? Is there something more to it?
Well, that’s when internationally acclaimed relationship expert and author Dr. Harriet Lerner comes into the picture with this book offering a ringside view of parties involved in tendering and receiving an apology. It definitely is a sanity-saving guide to make things better. She has amazingly quoted real-life stories with impeccable humour and wit. She explains adequately the transformative power of even ‘attempting’ to make amends.
It is an eye-opener and must read for mere mortals as it provides clear answers to ambiguous thoughts and jumbled up queries running in our minds when we are in a tricky situation. To both the hurt party as well as the one who is responsible for causing the hurt, this book has tips to glide through the situation in a respectable manner – yes, with one’s head held high or at least with one’s sanity intact!
Spread over twelve chapters, it offers well-described, witty examples of the many faces of ‘I’m sorry’; of different ways to ruin an apology, tips to handle big-time criticism, how and whether to accept the olive branch, reconciliation failures and finding peace, amongst others.
A very important and often forgotten point that has been brought up in the book is that a sincere apology means we are fully accountable for the part we are responsible for, and for ONLY that. What is also appreciable is that the author has quoted examples from her own life – a distinct feature of a true teacher – to demonstrate how paradoxically, in our most enduring and important relationships we are least likely to be our most mature and thoughtful selves.
It is a fast read and even though it deals with some very important issues of one’s life, it is written in a manner where complexities are broken down so that amidst other complexities, some simplified intake and its assimilation is guaranteed.
Important insights into entrenched non-apologizers’ psychology is also provided. There are those who are too defensive, too covered in shame and can’t or won’t see themselves objectively. In such cases, the book can be considered as a helpful tool to help prevent oneself from increasing their defensiveness and establishing a peaceful situation. However, there are small chunks in some chapters that could have been avoided. It needlessly lengthened certain areas under discussion. Crisper editing could have helped.
Renowned for her work on the psychology of women and family relationships, Lerner has 12 books published in 35 languages to her credit. She has also authored ‘The Dance of Anger’ (New York Times bestseller with more than 3m copies sold).
An important takeaway that the reviewer found in the book is: “The real question is not who started it, or who is to blame, but rather what each person can do to change his or her steps in the dance.”