We all make mistakes
We all make mistakes. That’s one of the many irritating things that make us human. Sometimes we make little mistakes. Sometimes we drop enormous clangers that have major repercussions. Most mistakes are because of communication issues. Sometimes we compound the mistake by blaming other people, and while that’s not ok, its understandable. None of us want to feel responsible for making other people’s lives harder. We all want to achieve the feel-good factor, because it makes us feel good too. Its how we handle it that defines what kind of person you are.
I messed up big time yesterday, nothing deliberate, but it had major repercussions in the piece of work I was doing and more importantly, it hurt somebody. It made their life harder, made them cross, and I suspect, made them sad. I only found that last bit out this morning. I emailed the person concerned, taking note in detail and importantly, I took responsibility for the bits I could have done better. I also explained where the responsibility lay for the bits that I depend on other people for. Note, that, I didn’t blame them, I simply explained who was responsible for what. I offered to reflect on my errors, I was polite, and I pressed send.
After I pressed send, I still didn’t feel right. So I rang the person I had hurt and apologised, I took responsibility, I didn’t make excuses. I literally said, ‘I’m really sorry, I dropped the ball, it is my responsibility’. That wasn’t the end of the conversation, it was the start of a constructive way back in our working relationship. Actually, saying the word sorry matters.
I know several people who say they will never say they are sorry because it is only a word. These people tend to make grand gestures, buying gifts, doing great acts of penance (often badly) or similarly embarrassing actions. I find this utterly cringeworthy. I have trouble believing these people are genuine. Why is this? Been there, done that. It’s not about being sorry and making the person you have hurt feel better. It’s about gaining some bizarre sense of nobility. Yes, sorry is just a word, but words are powerful and sorry is one of the most powerful there is, especially when it is not accompanied by excuses. A genuine apology can stop a tirade in its track, if it is said with enough depth of truth to be heard.
In the day, apologising was often accompanied by an act of contrition or repentance. Sometimes making amends is important, but in general, and in business, correcting our mistakes and putting mechanisms in place to ensure they don’t recur is normally the best course of action. Off the back of my apology today came one of the most useful and clear sighted conversations I’ve had with this person ever. Now we need to follow up and do what we said would be more likely to work.
And now we breathe. We think about what went wrong, we put it right, we move forward and most importantly, we learn. We learn to do things better. We learn to take responsibility proportionately. We learn that thinking rather than reacting is always going to work better. The measure of a person is not being perfect, its about how we handle the fact that we are flawed. Finally, we let it go.
If apologising is something you could be better, contact us for some help. And no, I don’t always get it right either.