I Apologized, Is That Enough? A Lesson on Conflict Resolution

January 5, 2016

A few days ago I went to the movies in Boulder Colorado with a friend of mine. We went to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”. We made it to the theater right on time to find our seats and settle down before the movie started. I was excited to see the film and happy to be spending time with my lovely friend.

 

Throughout the film we made a few comments to each other, about the movie and the healthy snacks that I have brought to share (blueberries, dates and pealed almonds). We didn’t talk much but we did talk softly, doing our best not to bother our neighbors who were also watching the movie.

 

Touching Dark Human Emotions: Anger and Pride

 

However, towards the end of the film, I made a comment to my companion that seemed to bother the man sitting next to her. He turned towards us and angrily said “Can you speak louder? I am trying to watch this fucking movie”. I immediately became defensive. I thought his comment was aggressive, rude and unnecessary. I remained looking straight at him, without saying a word. I didn’t know what to say, but I could feel the adrenaline pumping inside me and was feeling offended and ready to fight.

 

It was clear that a fight would have been out of place and would have only aggravated the situation. However, I felt insulted by his comment and partially defensive over my friend, who was sitting next to him and had received his verbal and energetic offense. I remained there, quiet, without moving a muscle, but fiercely looking into his eyes. Daring him to say or do something else. Then my friend looked at me with sweet eyes and said “it is ok”, and I turned back to watch the film.

 

As the movie continued to play I observed my thoughts, feelings and sensations in my body. I could still feel the adrenaline rushing, my hands gripping, my mind racing. I noticed my anger and thoughts saying “Why did he need to be so rude?”, “Why couldn’t he ask nicely?”, “If he wanted us to be quiet, why did he ask if we could talk louder?”, of course, he was being sarcastic, but I could only think of teaching him a lesson.

 

Of course I was aware that it was me who had been talking at the movies, loud enough to bother someone. However, I thought, we were not talking much and we were talking softly. Surely enough people who go to a movie theater should not expect everyone to be absolutely quiet throughout the entire film, at least from my perspective. I know I don’t like people being loud and obnoxious at the movies, but I have some degree of flexibility and understanding. If it ever came to bother me I would (and have) say something nicer than what this man said to us. Needless to say, it is a matter of preferences, opinions and perception.

 

Embracing Light Human Qualities: Kindness and Forgiveness 

 

As soon as the film ended, there was only one though in my mind: “I need to go to the bathroom as soon as possible”. Still, I was aware that the energy between us and our neighbor remained unsettled. I wasn’t planning on saying anything to him, but the first thing that my friend said to me as soon as the credits started to roll down was “That man was really rude to us”.

 

In that moment, without thinking for a second, I reached over her and gently put my hand over the man’s arm. I looked at him in the eyes and said: “I am sorry”.

 

It all happened very quickly, he turned to me and said something like “If you want to talk during a movie you should watch it at home”. I continued to look at him and said “I apologize”. He then turned around and I turned to look at my friend. She smiled at me and said “impressive”. I felt good.

 

I knew that even though he had not answered nicely to my apology he had still accepted it, and most importantly, I had taken ownership of my actions and emotions and had regained control over the situation. I was proud of myself. I thought I had handled the situation wisely and with humility. On top of that I had acted like a gentleman in front of my friend (I wasn’t trying to impress her but it is nice to be acknowledged).

 

A Touch of Humility To Bring Things To Balance

 

After that I got to take my victory lap to the men’s bathroom and celebrate. While I was in there I thought about writing this blog post to share the experience and brag about my behavior. Luckily enough, the next day I got to visit my mother and she brought me a step closer to earth.

I told her the story, just like I shared it with you, hoping that she would be proud of me for not picking up a fight and apologizing to this man instead of leaving him with a smart-ass response (or a bruised eye). I was hoping she would complement me but instead she looked at me and, like the great mother she is, spoke some words of wisdom.

 

As I was trying to aggrandize myself and my behavior, she pointed out to me, what now looks obvious. “The best thing to do would have been to apologize in the moment, that way you wouldn’t have needed to hold all those thoughts, emotions and tension throughout the rest of the movie”.

 

Of course, my reaction to her comment was slightly upset, why couldn’t she honor the fact that I had eventually apologized?... but she was right, the best thing would have been to apologize in the moment. It is hard to be so present when we have all these human emotions ready to burst at any every moment. I still took her words of advice and carried them with me.

 

I also talked to my friend about the situation that same night over dinner. She mentioned that her approach had also been different. For her, it was about being like a glass, letting reflections pass right through her without picking up anything. In other words, she did not take offence of the man’s words and actions, she preferred to remain unattached to his comments.

 

Lessons and Conclusion

 

At the end of the day, any of this three approaches would have been appropriate and I am glad that I was the better version of myself, handling the situation as best as I was able to in the moment.

 

We can always practice being more mindful, more present, more kind and loving. I am happy knowing that I did the right thing. I am glad that I apologized in time to feel clean and leave this man with less anger (hopefully) than he would have if I had not said sorry.

 

After this experience, what I take with me is that the force surrounds us and binds us all. In other words, we are all one and part of the same. I think we all have our dark sides and our light sides but we are all humans, brothers and sisters. The least we can do is try to get along. Love, respect and accept each other, to bring balance to this world.

 

 

 

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