Recently, my brother relocated to where I live and my sister-in-law and I have become better friends. I like her very much. She’s an attorney and she’s very smart. She has natural hair and that’s her choice, I respect that. I’m a hairstylist and I love my craft. I’m very popular, I make a lot of money and people say I’m one of the best in my area. Recently, my SIL came to my salon to drop off a gift to me and we were talking while I was working. Out of nowhere I said, “You should let me relax your hair and make you pretty.” Instantly, I knew that didn’t come out right. She said, I think I’m pretty now and abruptly left. She’s right, she is. Since then, when I see her, I give her a big hug and try to make it like it was, but she has become distant. How can I fix this, Alma?
Dear Hapless Hairstylist,
Uh oh, Baby Bop, ohknowudidn’t! Unfortunately, this time, and I’m sure it wasn’t the first time, you spoke your mind, before you thought it through. LOL, I know girl, it happens! You can’t fix what you did, until you own it. Acknowledging that what you said was hurtful is the first step.
She should have left; you called her ugly! Yes, you did, you know you did, that’s why you feel guilty. That’s also why you’re lathering her down with extra hugs and wide-eyed smiles every time you see her. Save the soapsuds, sista! Splash cold water on your face and back it on up. Where do you start, you wonder? With a mature apology, a real one, not the generic kind. You know what I’m talking about, don’t say, “I’m sorry if I offended you.” We three already know you did. Use real words and be specific like, “I’m sorry when I said…”
After the apology, share with her that you think she’s beautiful inside and out, smart and a great SIL. Let her know how much she means to you and confirm that her choice of hairstyle has nothing to do with the love and respect you share. Hug her and never mention it again. Right now this bucket of deplorable words has overwhelmed her, I’m sure. Again, take responsibility and take her by the hand, slowly leading your relationship back on track. Do whatever it takes, it won’t be easy and it shouldn’t be. She’ll eventually forgive you and let it go, but it may take a minute.
Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and Twitter @almaaskalma.