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说“对不起”的正确方式

更新时间:2017-2-23 11:03:05 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The Right Way to Say ‘I’m Sorry’
说“对不起”的正确方式

Most people say “I’m sorry” many times a day for a host of trivial affronts — accidentally bumping into someone or failing to hold open a door. These apologies are easy and usually readily accepted, often with a response like, “No problem.”

大多数人每天都要为各种微不足道的冒犯说许多次“对不起”——无意间撞到某人,或没能扶一下门。这些道歉容易做到,通常也易于接受,往往会得到“没关系”之类的回应。

But when “I’m sorry” are the words needed to right truly hurtful words, acts or inaction, they can be the hardest ones to utter. And even when an apology is offered with the best of intentions, it can be seriously undermined by the way in which it is worded. Instead of eradicating the emotional pain the affront caused, a poorly worded apology can result in lasting anger and antagonism, and undermine an important relationship.

但是当“对不起”是为了弥补真的很伤人的话语、行动或不作为时,会很难说出口。而且即便你是本着最大的善意进行道歉,也有可能因为措辞不当而严重走偏。措辞不当的道歉不但不能消除之前的冒犯造成的感情伤痛,反倒会带来持久的愤怒与敌意,破坏一段重要的关系。

I admit to a lifetime of challenges when it comes to apologizing, especially when I thought I was right or misunderstood or that the offended party was being overly sensitive. But I recently discovered that the need for an apology is less about me than the person who, for whatever reason, is offended by something I said or did or failed to do, regardless of my intentions.

我认为道歉是人生最大的挑战,尤其是在我认为自己是对的、被误解了,或觉得被冒犯的一方过于敏感时。但我最近发现,道歉更多的是出于被我说的话、做的事或没能做的事伤害的人的需要——不管因为什么原因,也不管我是不是有意——而不是我的需要。

I also learned that a sincere apology can be powerful medicine with surprising value for the giver as well as the recipient.

我也明白了,真诚的道歉可以是疗效强大的药物,不论对给予者还是接受者而言,都有惊人的价值。

After learning that a neighbor who had assaulted me verbally was furious about an oversight I had not known I committed, I wrote a letter in hopes of defusing the hostility. Without offering any excuses, I apologized for my lapse in etiquette and respect. I said I was not asking for or expecting forgiveness, merely that I hoped we could have a civil, if not friendly, relationship going forward, then delivered the letter with a jar of my homemade jam.

在得知一位曾对我出言不逊的邻居对我无意中的疏忽感到十分愤怒时,我写了一封信,希望化解敌意。我没找任何借口,带着礼貌和尊重为自己的过失道歉。我说我不是请求或期待原谅,只是希望我们以后能拥有和平甚至友好的邻里关系,然后我带着一罐自制果酱把这封信送了过去。

Expecting nothing in return, I was greatly relieved when my doorbell rang and the neighbor thanked me warmly for what I had said and done. My relief was palpable. I felt as if I’d not only discarded an enemy but made a new friend, which is indeed how it played out in the days that followed.

我完全没想到会有任何回报,所以当门铃响起,那位邻居热情地感谢我的所说、所做时,我非常欣慰。我的欣慰非常明显。我觉得自己不仅减少了一个敌人,而且新交了一个朋友,在之后的日子里,事情的确是这样发展的。

About a week later I learned that, according to the psychologist and author Harriet Lerner, the wording of my apology was just what the “doctor” would have ordered. In the very first chapter of her new book, “Why Won’t You Apologize?” Lerner points out that apologies followed by rationalizations are “never satisfying” and can even be harmful.

大约一周后,我得知,据心理学家兼作家哈丽雅特·勒纳(Harriet Lerner)说,我道歉的措辞正是这位“医生”本来会开的处方。她在新书《你为什么不想道歉》(Why Won’t You Apologize?)的第一章指出,含有解释自己行为合理性的道歉“绝不会令人满意”,甚至可能带来伤害。

“When ‘but’ is tagged on to an apology,” she wrote, it’s an excuse that counters the sincerity of the original message. The best apologies are short and don’t include explanations that can undo them.

她写道,“当道歉带有‘但是’时”,它是一种借口,会抵销道歉的诚意。最好的道歉是简短的,不包含可能抵销歉意的解释。

Nor should a request for forgiveness be part of an apology. The offended party may accept a sincere apology but still be unready to forgive the transgression. Forgiveness, should it come, may depend on a demonstration going forward that the offense will not be repeated.

要求原谅也不应该是道歉的一部分。被冒犯的一方可能接受真诚的道歉,但还没准备好原谅那种过失行为。原谅——如果它最终会出现的话——可能取决于表明这种冒犯不会再出现。

“It’s not our place to tell anyone to forgive or not to forgive,” Lerner said in an interview. She disputes popular thinking that failing to forgive is bad for one’s health and can lead to a life mired in bitterness and hate.

“我们不能要求任何人原谅或不原谅,”勒纳在接受采访时表示。她不赞同不原谅的态度对健康无益,可能导致终生陷入痛苦和仇恨的流行看法。

“There is no one path to healing,” she said. “There are many roads to letting go of corrosive emotions without forgiving, like therapy, meditation, medication, even swimming.”

“通往治愈的道路不止一条,”她说,“有很多方法可以在不原谅的情况下释放有害的情绪,比如心理治疗、冥思、服用药物,甚至游泳。”

As to why many people find it hard to offer a sincere, unfettered apology, Lerner pointed out that “humans are hard-wired for defensiveness. It’s very difficult to take direct, unequivocal responsibility for our hurtful actions. It takes a great deal of maturity to put a relationship or another person before our need to be right.”

至于为什么很多人难以满怀真诚、毫不拘谨地向人道歉,勒纳指出,“人类固有的防御性很难改变。要对自己的伤害行为负起直接、明确的责任是很困难的。我们需要感觉自己是对的,把一段关系或另一个人摆在这种需要之上,只有非常成熟才能做到。”

Offering an apology is an admission of guilt that admittedly leaves people vulnerable. There’s no guarantee as to how it will be received. It is the prerogative of the injured party to reject an apology, even when sincerely offered. The person may feel the offense was so enormous — for example, having been sexually abused by a parent — that it is impossible to accept a mea culpa offered by the abusive parent years later.

道歉就是承认自己的过错,这当然会使人处于脆弱的境地。没有人能保证自己的道歉一定能被对方接受。拒绝道歉是受害者的天赋权利,即便这道歉是真诚的。受害者可能觉得这个侵犯实在太大——比如被父母中的一方性侵的孩子不可能多年后听了性侵者一句“是我的错”就算了。

Righting a perceived wrong can be especially challenging when it involves family members, who may be inclined to cite history — he was abused by his father, or she was raised by a distant mother — as an excuse for hurtful behavior. “History can be used as an explanation, not an excuse,” the psychologist said. “It should involve a conversation that allows the hurt party to express anger and pain if an apology, however sincere, is to heal a broken connection.”

当涉及到家庭成员时,要纠正一个已经被认定的错误可能更加具有挑战性,因为家庭成员可能倾向于引用过去的历史来为伤害行为找借口——他曾经被父亲虐待过,或者她的母亲对她很疏远。“历史可以用来提供解释,而不是成为借口,”这位心理学家说。“如果道歉是为了治愈一段破碎的关系,不管它有多么真诚,都应该进行一次谈话,允许受伤害的一方表达愤怒和痛苦。”

As she wrote: “Nondefensive listening (to the hurt party) is at the heart of offering a sincere apology.” She urges the listener not to “interrupt, argue, refute, or correct facts, or bring up your own criticisms and complaints.” Even when the offended party is largely at fault, she suggests apologizing for one’s own part in the incident, however small it may be.

正如她所写道的:“不带防御性的倾听是(向受害方)提供真诚道歉的核心。”她敦促倾听者不要“打断、争辩、反驳或纠正事实,又或是提出你自己的批评和抱怨。”即使被冒犯的一方多半是错的,她也建议为自己在事件中做错的部分而道歉,不管自己的错误有多小。

Lerner views apology as “central to health, both physical and emotional. ‘I’m sorry’ are the two most healing words in the English language,” she said. “The courage to apologize wisely and well is not just a gift to the injured person, who can then feel soothed and released from obsessive recriminations, bitterness and corrosive anger. It’s also a gift to one’s own health, bestowing self-respect, integrity and maturity — an ability to take a cleareyed look at how our behavior affects others and to assume responsibility for acting at another person’s expense.”

勒纳认为道歉是“身心健康的核心。‘我很抱歉’是英语中最有治愈效果的几个字,”她说。“明智而巧妙地道歉的勇气,是送给受伤害者的一份礼物,可以令他感到安慰,令他从难以释怀的相互指责、痛苦和侵蚀人心的愤怒中摆脱出来;不仅如此,这也是送给自身健康的一份礼物,为自己带来自尊、诚实与成熟——道歉是一种能力,让你可以清楚地看到自己的行为如何影响他人,并为自己的行动令他人所付出的代价而承担责任。”

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