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“It took me a very long time to get to the point of why I’d invited him. I broke down crying before I came out with it,” Workman recalled.
And when he did?
“My dad told me, ‘I forgive you,’” he said. What’s more, in the dozen years since, Workman and his parents have become so close, “they trust me with a lot of things they would not trust any of the other children with.”
This turns out to happen with some frequency, the surprise bonus of an apology. Not only do you get the truth off your chest, but you also get a whole new relationship with someone you care about.
That’s exactly what happened to Robin Lutchansky, a publicist in New York City, but she was on the receiving end. You see, about 20 years ago she brought a young woman — a waitress — into her public relations business. Five years later, the protégé moved on to another agency. Afterward, whenever the two got together for lunch, the younger woman would tell Lutchansky everything Lutchansky was doing wrong.
It was a long list. Lutchansky stopped going to lunch with her.
After the young woman climbed the corporate ladder and moved to California, Lutchansky suffered an injury and ended up in a wheelchair, addicted to pain pills. It was while she was struggling to overcome all that that she got a call from the protégé. The younger woman apologized for never thanking her mentor.
She followed up the apology by recommending Lutchansky to two valuable clients — Lutchansky’s first as she got back on her feet, literally and figuratively.
Apologies not only reopen doors, they let the sunshine in.
Okay, last story, this one from Donna Maurillo, who works at a research institute in Scotts Valley, Calif. As she was growing up, she and her father had “a really difficult relationship. I always thought I’d hate him for the rest of my life,” she said. But then she became an adult: “Here I was, with kids of my own, still carrying this anger.” Sick of simmering, one day she picked up the phone and called her dad.
She wasn’t asking for an apology, per se, just re-establishing contact after a few years of none. And she admits: “The first call was uncomfortable. Mostly silence. ‘Hi, Dad. How are you doing?’ ‘I’m fine. How are you?’ But each one that followed grew easier, and soon we were talking like old friends.”
Even old friends have to hash things out sometimes, of course, and finally her dad admitted the guilt he felt for having been a terrible father.
At last! The apology Maurillo had been waiting for her entire adult life! “But instead of twisting the knife,” she said, she reassured him, “We all do the best we know how.”
Then, just before he died, her dad said the words she’d never heard from him before. The ones she’d wanted to hear her whole life. I’m sure you know what they are.
They’re the words we all might hear, from God or someone here on earth, if we take the self-help advice we get on Yom Kippur.
Lenore Skenazy is a public speaker and founder of the book “Free-Range Kids” and the blog of the same name. Her show, “World’s Worst Mom,” airs on Discovery/TLC International.