Most conflicts involve the following key points: Intention, Action, Effect, Reaction and Response.
Here are some methods for examining these points and figuring out what went wrong, and how to fix it.
Intention – What was the intent of the action? Was it meant to cause pain? Was it meant to cause closeness? Was it meant to cause spontaneous partying? If the “flavor” of the intent was positive, than there is no blame or fault in the intent.
Action – Was the method of expressing the Intent appropriate given the situation, audience and Intention? If so, great. If not, can the inappropriate point be determined, and WHY it was innappropriate be identified?
Effect – Did the action have the anticipated effect? If not, it was likely not the proper Action for the stated Intention. By looking both through your own eyes as well as the eyes of the others involved, can you determine HOW this effect was manifested based on the Action and the individual perspectives at work? Was this something that you could have foreseen? Was it something that should have been asked before being done? Was any hurt done? Was any harm done?
Reaction – How was the effect perceived by yourself and others? Is this reaction an expression of the current Action/Effect or is it mostly the release of old built-up tensions in others and your action happened to be the event triggering the release of it all? Is the Reaction appropriate to the Effect? If not, it is probably either the unfortunate act of triggering something else, or you lack the perspective in this situation to understand the reaction as they experienced it, and further discussion is warranted.
Response – This is how you react to their reaction. Is it dismissive? Is it supportive? Does it encourage expressive dialogue or discourage it? Have opportunities for discussion and exploration of what happened physically/emotionally/mentally/spiritually been in a safe space (as perceived by the both of you – some view privaacy as safe, some view group as safe, depending on people and situations). Were they receptive to being talked to? Did they have “time to process” before attempting to talk to them? Did you have time to process? Were you able to express the Intent of the Action and help clarify what you were trying to do? Could they listen? Was the communication in a medium (email/phone/in-person/letter) that they were comfortable in.
The most you can do is try to act properly in a situation. In the events where action is improper due to error or misinterpretation, then epology and explanation (in whatever combination works best) are sometimes the only recourse.
However, at that point, the control goes from you to the others, as to whether they choose to accept the apology or not, the explanation or not.
All you can offer is sincerity and, if appropriate, amends. If those are not willing to be accepted, then you’re sort of done with this event. You can choose to continue on and hope that through example going forward the point that it was not intentional hurt/harm will be driven home by example, or decide that it is not worth the effort to try to recapture/maintain.
As to pain, many in the community love the “More Persecuted Than Thou” label, shouting “Never Again The Burning Times” and things like that with a bit too much regularly. In these cases, they will likely cling to their perceived pain as a badge of honor, unwilling to release it, for it gives them a sense of power to have been the victim.
To those who prefer to release their pain and move on to further growth in life, this will probably not be much of an issue.
If you are dealing with a “pain-keeper” then the method would probably be to find a way to diminish the pain they perceive by either lessening the ‘impact’ of the slight to them and to others, or by showing a relative weakness between the value of keeping the pain versus letting go of it.
I can’t describe exactly how to do this, as it would depend on the specifics of an event, but it could work if you can find the right way to present it.