Once again, I’ve come across an article by Peter Bregman that I wish I’d written myself.
If you’ve read my post on how to apologize, you might have found yourself thinking, ‘Yeah, but I didn’t mean it that way. Can’t I just explain what I was thinking?’
Bregman explains why it’s consequences, rather than intentions, that carry the day in the mind of the person who’s mad at you.
It’s a great article, but it does raise a question. What happens if it’s not clear what the consequences were?
Angry On Principle
Say your brother decides to borrow your car while you’re on vacation, and puts it back in your garage before you get home. You only know about it because he mentions it casually in passing a week later.
Why might you be angry about that? He didn’t crash the car, he didn’t use much gas, and it’s not like you might have needed it when you were in Spain.
What’s the big deal?
In this case, it’s not the consequences but the principle. Your brother crossed a line by using something of yours without your permission.
This might not upset you at all. But if he used to take your toys when you were kids, his taking your car without asking could hit a nerve.
If you express annoyance and your brother replies, “But nothing bad happened to your car. What are you mad about?,” that’s not going to fly.
It’s okay to be angry about boundary violations and other behavior that feels disrespectful to you, even if there are no visible consequences.