"I'm sorry!" Nancy exclaimed with a trembling voice.
Rose's heart sank just a little. "You have nothing to be sorry for," Rose tried to explain. "Things change and our working together is a learning process. We've outgrown how we did things, and I'd like us to work together to set a new direction that works for us both."
Try as Rose did to get Nancy on board with her intent, clearly Nancy had gone under. Nancy's "sorry's" kept her from being able to understand what Rose was aspiring toward. That's common in improvement efforts – people hear a desire to grow and improve as criticism of how things are.
Nancy kept being sorry, and Rose started to feel sorry that she had raised the issue. Not that staying silent had been an option.
Rose understood the tendency to collapse, go unconscious and default into apologies. She recalled one client who had missed an appointment.
"I came on time for the appointment, but the door was locked," the client complained.
Yes, just as she had told him it would be. Just as she told all her clients. The front door to the building stays locked and the back door remains open, so go in the back door and walk up the stairs. Bring my number with you in case you have any problems and I'll come down to greet you.
So why had Rose apologized to him as if she had committed some egregious error? Even as her "sorry's" came out of her mouth it felt backwards. If any "sorry's" were in order, he should be apologizing to her. In fact, he should be offering to pay her for the missed appointment. Yet, Rose continued to say how sorry she was, even as something inside her screamed in protest to her self-betrayal.
That was many years ago. Now, as Nancy apologized when she had done no wrong, Rose was tempted to apologize for hurting her feelings. But she refrained. Nancy had nothing to apologize for, and neither did Rose. They might not get through it in this conversation. But it was time for a change, and Rose knew that could be a process. Her heart hurt as the conversation came to it's necessary close and Nancy told her, "I need to cry." It was hard to let it rest there. Yet Rose trusted that their mutual respect and love would get them through to a new level. Eventually.