EQI.org Home | Main Page on Caring

Caring, Regret, Change

Part 1

Last night I was teasing someone. I wanted to feel superior to her; to show her that I could do something better than she could. I forgot, though, about her feelings. She told me that she didn't like it because it added to her belief that she was bad at everything and can't do anything well. I felt a little defensive and thought, "I was just teasing." I told her that I just wanted to show off how good I was at it, but that didn't make her feel much better. She repeated that she didn't like it. Then she walked away. A few minutes later we talked and she said she was feeling a little self-destructive. I offered her a hug, but she was reluctant to accept it. I could see she felt very bad. I apologized again for teasing her earlier. This time I felt less defensive and felt more sincere regret and empathy.

This morning I apologized again to her because I still felt bad about what I did. She seemed to accept my apology, saying, "It's ok." This reminds me now of one of my best teachers, who used to say, "It's ok, best friend."

I am also reminded of the power of a sincere apology. And I think of the very important difference between the words and the feeling. I think of how teachers might insist that one child apologize to another, yet the first one feels neither regret nor empathy. This is a good example that you can force behavior, but not the underlying feelings.

This simple truth is the basis of many social problems. It is so simple, yet it is so often overlooked, forgotten, or never realized.

Throughout our lives people want us to behave a certain way. They use many tactics, strategies and methods to get us to do so. The overwhelming emphasis in psychology has been on behavior. Behavior modification. Behavioral therapy. Conditioning. Punishment and rewards.

Behavior is easier to measure, to quantify. One person's behavior serves another. The behavior of the worker serves the employer. The behavior of the citizens serve the rulers and politicians. The behavior of the slave serves the needs and desires of the master.

An important question to always remember to ask ourselves is: does the master care about how the slave feels? Does the boss care how the worker feels? Does the teacher care how the student feels? Does the parent care how the child or teen feels?

Getting back to apologies and forgiveness, it is much easier for a teacher to get one child to apologize to another, than for her to get the child to really feel bad for their action. In other words, it is easier to force the behavior the teacher wants than to force the feelings. We might say then that in general it is easier to force behavior than feelings. We might also say it is easier to control behavior than feelings.

Since it is natural for most humans to do what is easier and quicker, it makes sense then that so much of human history and human interaction is based on behavior control. But what then of feelings? What happens when the feelings don't match the behavior?

What happens is our emotional needs get neglected on a massive scale. When needs are not met, problems follow just as surely as water flows downhill.

Remember that our feelings are indicators of the state of our emotional needs. When an emotional need is unmet, our bodies send us a signal, just as when we are hungry, our bodies alert us. When emotional needs are unmet we feel dissatisfied, frustrated, discontent. When our emotional needs are filled, we feel content, satisfied, good.

Of course there are many more specific feelings. We have identified over
1,000 words to describe negative feelings alone. But the point of this article is to serve as a reminder of these five things:

1. Sincere apologies are very powerful.

2. Sincere apologies arise from sincere feelings.

3. While behavior can be forced, sincere feelings, and therefore, sincerity itself, can not.

4. When behavior is controlled without regard for the underlying feelings, emotional needs get neglected.

5. When emotional needs are not met, personal and social problems quickly follow.

EQI.org Home Page

Core Components of EQI.org

Other EQI.org Topics:

Emotional Intelligence | Empathy
Emotional Abuse | Understanding
Emotional Literacy | Feeling Words
Respect | Parenting | Caring
Listening | Invalidation | Hugs
Depression |Education
Personal Growth

Search EQI.org | Support EQI.org

EQI.org Library and Bookstore

Online Consulting, Counseling Coaching from EQI.org

Part 2