After telling me about the conversation my sister ended by saying, "After she moved away I really had no desire to ever see her again or to continue the friendship. It's been more than a decade since that happened, but now that she has called and apologized I suddenly feel like it would be fun to reconnect. I would look forward to getting together with her. Isn't it funny how much a simple apology can change your feelings about a person?"
Yes, it's funny. And pretty much one of the main reasons why I still have friends.
For all of you shy and/or socially tactful readers out there, bless you. I hope you live a long and happy life basking in your ability to keep quiet or at least think before you speak. But for those readers who, like me, are walking through life with one foot perpetually stuck in your mouth, don't worry. We can always apologize.
A while back I realized that my mental list of acquaintances who might have been put off by my forward, unbuttoned social graces was getting uncomfortably long. So I decided to clean out my closet. I approached or called or emailed each and every person on my list and said something like, "I'm sorry if what I said that day came out the wrong way" or "I'm sorry if I was too outspoken in my opinions..." and I apologized. Most of the people had no idea what offense I was referring to, and most of the "offenses" were pretty silly and could easily be overlooked by a generous listener. But I feel lighter for making things right. And every once in a while I can tell that my closet cleaning apologies make a difference, warming my relationships.
I guess I've always felt that we can choose to have a few, select friends and a whole bunch of casual acquaintances, or we can choose to have a whole bunch of friends. It's such a small thing, saying your sorry, but truly I believe it is one of the great ingredients to making and sustaining strong friendships.