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Explanations > Behaviors > Coping > Undoing

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?



Undoing is performing an act to 'undo' a previous unacceptable act or thought.

It is often a form of apology, although it may not include the actual act of saying that you are sorry.

Confession is a form of undoing, including that done in a church to a priest or a secret admission to a close friend.


An act or communication which partially negates a previous one. Examples: (1) two close friends have a violent argument; when they next meet, each act as if the disagreement had never occurred. (2) when asked to recommend a friend for a job, a man makes derogatory comments which prevent the friend's getting the position; a few days later, the man drops in to see his friend and brings him a small gift.


Lady Macbeth compulsively washes her hands after committing murder.

A man who has been unkind to his wife buys her flowers (but does not apologize).

A person who has barged in front of others in a queue holds the door open for them.

A teenager who has been rather noisy tidies the room without having to be asked.


When we do (or even think) something that is outside our values we feel shame and hence a need to make right what we have done that is wrong.

Undoing can be a form of apology. By reversing former actions the person is tacitly admitting they were wrong.

So what?

Help people to undo the wrongs they have done to you by showing you forgive them, especially when they perform 'undoing' actions.

You can also help them to undo wrongs, suggesting things they can do as much to alleviate their own anxieties as to repair relationships with others.

In persuasion, a wrong done to a person is an opportunity for that person to request something in return. If the wrongdoer realizes their wrong, they will jump at the chance to undo it.

See also

Confession, Symbolization

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