Kelly Corrigan has written a book of personal essays entitled “Tell Me More,” centered on 12 phrases that she thinks are important for us to say to one another. I haven’t read it yet, but I got to thinking of the phrases that I would put into that category. Here are some:
“I’m sorry that I hurt you.” That’s not the same as saying, “I’m sorry you feel hurt,” or “I’m sorry that you took what I said the wrong way,” or any of the other non-apologies so frequently heard today. I believe it’s important to take responsibility for one’s actions, even if those actions were unintended or seemed justified at the time. Hurting someone is never acceptable, and when we do it, we need to acknowledge that fact and not put the onus on the victim. “I’m sorry YOU felt hurt by what I did,” is tantamount to saying, “Hey, it’s not my fault. You’re the one who feels hurt.” Relationships with others involve some form of vulnerability. We love and trust our friends and family who see us as we are and who love us back, warts and all. None of us is perfect. We will have conflict. We may say or do things in the heat of the moment that we regret later. “I’m sorry that I hurt you,” is a heart-felt acknowledgement of our own fault(s). Let your loved one know that you sincerely regret your actions. I believe that’s important.
Remember the TV series “Frasier”? Frasier Crane used the phrase “I’m listening,” to begin his daily radio show. I think that’s an important phrase for all of us as well. More than just saying “I’m listening,” though, is the action of really listening. When my daughter was in her teens, we had a rocky few years. Recently she said that she always thought she could tell me anything even when she was in high school. “Why was that?” I asked. “Because you always listened. You didn’t try to tell me what to do all the time. Sometimes I just needed to say things out loud and I could figure it out for myself.” Listening requires withholding judgment. Listening requires holding your tongue. Listening requires waiting for cues to respond. Sometimes, listening requires no words at all. There may be tears, there may be hand holding, and there is always eye contact. Being a good listener is one way to show love.
Speaking of love, the phrase “I love you,” is also important. Let those you love know it–out loud and often.
Those are my phrases. What would you add to these?