May 06, 2010

The Science of Making Up

Making Up is hard to do ... but not impossible !

Ok You’ve had a fight but now you are over it and want to make the peace. Where do you begin ?  Unlike computers, humans have no reset buttons to restore reason after it has been lost in an argument. You’re a little reluctant because you know from previous experience that if you don’t do it right, saying something could just start another fight.  Today we have help for you . We'll begin with some FAQ's and then offer some concrete tips.

Why Making up is hard to do.

  • No one wants to “go first” because of the risk involved. The other person may not be ready to make up and you could face rejection.    
  • Sincere reconciliation involves an  honest acceptance of one’s responsibility in the conflict and, frankly,  it is so much easier to avoid dealing with it or to blame the other person than to admit one was wrong.
  • Admitting we made a mistake goes against self image.

          Further, since  most of us have  self esteem  issues, it is difficult to admit we are
          wrong to a person we want to like us. Although we worry that admitting that we are
          not perfect will make a person like use less, just the opposite is true.  

What are Common Mistakes?
--  Waiting: Postponing repairing breaks in the relationship only makes things worse.        
    The longer we wait the more  difficult it is to start.   
--  Qualifying apologies: or trying to defend or justify your behavior.    
     For example: I wouldn’t have done X,  if you  hadn’t …     or  I'm sorry but ...
--  Criticizing your partner's behavior.
     What is your goal to make up or complain?
--  Dragging in old and irrelevant issues.

What are the Keys to Successful Making Up ?

  • Reality test your expectations and accept the risks and awkwardness involved with initiating reconciliation. Also realize there doesn't have to be a loser or winner in a fight. It's OK to admit mistakes.
  •  Apologize without qualification                                                                                                                         
  • Don't  comment about your partner’s behavior.
  • Do one thing at a time. Reconcile first before trying to deal with the underlying conflict  which caused the argument.

While reconciling  is difficult is difficult doesn't mean it's impossible.  Realize everyone makes  mistakes and that your partner won’t think less of you for admitting when you do.  Most importantly, the more you do it,  the easier it gets The one who initiates reconciliation takes a risk. However, the steps we have outlined today can substantially reduce the risk and increase the odds for having a successful experience.

The Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, prepared these remarks for Bridge Street 5/3/2010

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