Conflict Resolution with Dr. Erin Leonard

Sometimes it’s hardest to apologize to the ones we are closest to, yet, these are the most important people to say sorry to. Why? Psychotherapist Dr. Erin Leonard says we spend most of our time caring for our children and spouse, in addition to, trying to protect them from hurt, so the notion that we are the ones that hurt them is difficult to accept.

If we apologize first, it feels like we are taking responsibility for the entire fight, which nobody wants to do. If we say sorry, we are giving our power away.”

Dr. Leonard breaks these down, one at a time. She explains:

  • We are human. We make mistakes. It’s inevitable. Even the most perfect parent has plenty of selfish moments, which is okay because these are the moments that give the parent the opportunity to own their mistake and apologize to their child. The child’s experience of their parent owning a mistake, is actually what develops accountability in the child. If the parent is not accountable in the relationship, the child does not integrate accountability.
  • Nobody likes to apologize first. Why? Because they feel like if they apologize, they are taking responsibility for the entire fight. Nope. Not true. If you take responsibility for your part, hopefully, your loved one will take responsibility for their part. When both people own their part in the conflict, it is resolved positively and closeness is restored.
  • Strong and secure people apologize in their interpersonal relationships. It is the profoundly insecure person that cannot admit their mistake and sincerely apologize with true remorse. The most secure people are the people that can say, “I was selfish. I’m sorry.”

Example: One morning, years ago, I was stressed and rushing to get my kids off to school and myself to work.  I told Kenny, my 5 year old, “Honey, get your socks and shoes on we are going to get in the car soon.” I went into the kitchen to put my coffee cup in the sink, and he came rushing towards me. He grabbed my leg to get my attention, took a bite of the muffin in his hand, and gestured downwards. As he looked down, half of the muffin he was eating crumbled onto the floor.  I was furious. I assumed Kenny was being a clown and purposefully making a mess–  so I yelled at him.  And his little face fell, he burst into tears, looked at me and yelled, “I hate you!” And he ran to the garage. I was so confused. What just happened?  I stopped myself and I quickly replayed the interaction in my mind and realized that as Kenny was crying and running to the garage, his socks and shoes were on and his shoes were tied. I had made a big mistake. He hadn’t been clowning around. He was trying to show me, proudly,  that he had done what I had asked.  So, I surrendered myself to the idea that we would all be late for school and I went out to the garage where he was balled up and crying in the back seat of the car, and I crawled next to him and said, “I made a big mistake. A big mistake. I hurt you and I’m so sorry.” He snuggled closer to me and softly said, “it’s okay mom.” Later, he came to me and apologized for what he said.

Owning your mistakes is what maintains the closeness and the trust in the relationship. Humans make mistakes. It’s inevitable. If you realize you made a mistake and apologize, you are repair the rupture and ensure the closeness remains.

Love and love well, Dr Erin Leonard

To learn more, visit www.drerinleonard.com.

SEGMENT IS SPONSORED BY DR. ERIN LEONARD