Mind Your Manners: Smoothing tensions before the next holiday gathering

So Thanksgiving didn’t go quite as planned.

Since last year’s family celebration ended in a brawl after obnoxious Uncle Elmer started discussing politics and other hot topics, this year you were determined to avoid the dust-up and drama by coming prepared. You had a game plan. You mentally practiced your coping skills with dialogue-diverter techniques to change the subject just in case things became heated again this year. Unfortunately, they did — only worse.

Obnoxious Uncle Elmer started where he left off last year. Aunt Edna contributed to the drama by commenting that it looked as if you had a bit more “junk in your trunk” than this time last year, and cousin Fred added insult to injury by asking if you were ever going to get married.

That’s when it happened. You lost your temper. You blew up.

You unleashed a stream of insults mixed with “blue” language that would have embarrassed the saltiest of sailors (no offense to sailors). Your outburst of anger affected everyone sitting at the table.

You knew the minute the offending words left your mouth that you were going to regret them. And you do.

Now what?

With only a couple of weeks until the next family holiday get-together, how do you overcome the hurt feelings and anger you may have caused? The simple answer is: apologize.

While it may not be easy, it can go a long way toward resolving an awkward situation at the next gathering. Not apologizing will only perpetuate the damage. Below are a few simple tips that may be helpful.

  • Apologize as soon as possible. Delaying your apology may appear less sincere. However, never avoid saying you are sorry just because you think too much time has passed. A late apology is better than no apology at all.
  • Before you offer an apology, step away from the situation, and try to organize your thoughts. Think about what you are apologizing for, as well as how the other person may have been affected.
  • Try to offer an apology face-to-face. Look the person in the eye and speak candidly. An apology sent the next day via text or email may not provide the sincerity intended and appear less authentic.
  • State what you did wrong, and acknowledge the pain and suffering your actions may have caused. The person receiving the apology is more likely to feel that you are sincere and that you understand your words and/or actions were hurtful.
  • Avoid making disclaimers such as, “I am sorry, but.” This sounds more like a justification than an apology. Avoid using phrases such as, “I am sorry you feel that way,” or “I am sorry, you must have misheard me.” This may be interpreted as though you are blaming the very person to whom you are apologizing.
  • Make every effort to repair the damage. Don’t be afraid to ask what you can do to correct your mistake or to help right the wrong. Often, there is nothing you can do, but you should still make a heartfelt offer.
  • Be tolerant of those who may not be ready to accept your apology; some may need time before they will be able to listen to you or accept your reconciliation. Be prepared to accept the consequences that may occur from the situation.

For many, it is not easy to apologize. It can wound one’s pride, cause embarrassment or harbor feelings of shame or guilt. Some may even feel that apologizing shows weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. It takes great strength to step forward.

And remember, you can’t control Uncle Elmer. You can only control your response to him.

Pam Harvit, BSRDH MS, is a certified international corporate protocol and etiquette consultant and speaks nationally on business and medical etiquette, as well as other related topics. You may request her services or email your questions to pamharvit.com.

Funerals for Sunday, February 16, 2020

Atkins, Linda - 3 p.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Call, James - 2 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Hankins, Sara - 1 p.m., McGhee-Handley Funeral Home, West Hamlin.

Hensley, Joshua - 2 p.m., Evans Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Chapmanville.

Jackson, Jeffrey - 6 p.m., Lantz Funeral Home, Buckeye.

Jobe, Joe - 2:30 p.m., Sunset Memorial Park Mausoleum Chapel, South Charleston.

Johnson, Freda - 2 p.m., Kanawha Valley Memorial Gardens, Glasgow.

Ratcliff, James - 3 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.