It is easy to want to change. Especially when our behavior hurts someone important to us. After we hurt someone we may apologize. Sincerely apologize and vow to change, to never do it again. But how many times have you done that and then repeated the behavior again? Or maybe you’ve been on the receiving end. Someone you care about promises to change. But they don’t. They always apologize but their behavior never changes.
It never feels good when that happens. The reason is that actions really do speak louder than words. Because no matter what we say, what we do shows what we truly value. Now that doesn’t mean we don’t value the other person. It is often that we are just getting something more from the behavior. That gets even more complicated because when I say “value” it may not be what you are thinking.
It might be that the behavior doesn’t even really accomplish what it is we think it does. For example, sometimes we engage in certain behaviors because they create a false sense of safety. An example might be not telling the full details about something because we fear that the other person may get mad. But when the other person finds out, they feel they have been lied to and actually do get both hurt and angry. So although we “value” the behavior it may actually not be getting us what we want and it may be pushing away others.
This pattern is important to look at from both sides. First, if you are the one always apologizing and not changing, it is useful to really look at why. What purpose does continuing the behavior serve? Is it really accomplishing what you want? If not, then it becomes a matter of teaching yourself a new behavior that does help you achieve your purpose. But sometimes it turns out that the behavior is truly valuable to you. If that is the case then change needs to happen at the other end. Instead of promising change that is unlikely to happen, the best approach is to own your choice and talk to the other person about how to make things work.
And if you are on the receiving end of the constant apologies? Well, you need to really understand what the other person’s actions are saying. If they are unwilling to change, or really make the effort to understand why they won’t change, then they are sending you a hard message. They are saying that they value the behavior more than they value the relationship with you. And that calls for some serious thinking on your part. Are you willing to accept the behavior or do their continued actions mean it is time to change or end the relationship?
Of course, it isn’t always black and white. There are often alternate paths to try. It is possible to create change in another person by changing ourselves. But ultimately what is true is that our actions show where our values lie. Think about that the next time there is a lot of apologizing going on no matter if you are on the giving or receiving end of the apologies.