Question: I’m in the middle of a dispute with a colleague. I know she’s wrong and I’m right. But now I’m beginning to wonder. I’m concerned that this dispute is damaging my relationship with her. How do I work my way out of this mess?
Answer: There are three underused words in the English language that would probably solve all of this . . . I am sorry. Why don’t we say we’re sorry more often? For some reason, we believe that apologizing somehow causes us to lose something in a relationship. In fact, just the opposite occurs. I’ve been one of those people who always had to be right about everything. And after a lot of self-analysis I realized that this may have been driven to an extent by some sort of insecurity or lack of confidence.
Here’s an obvious statement; apologies must be real. How many times have we heard a politician or other public figure make this kind of an apology, “I’m sorry if my comments offended some in the community.” Saying one is sorry if someone else is offended can be subject to interpretation. Is the speaker sorry that someone took what he said the wrong way? Or is he sorry for what he actually said? If the apology was sincere, the speaker would say, “I’m sorry for what I said because I was wrong.” There’s no doubt that this person is truly remorseful about what he said.
I’ve gotten better at making heartfelt apologies. I’m not completely there yet, but my progress is incremental. I’ve found that I am catching myself before I try to defend a word or deed that may or may not be correct. The old me would argue to the end of the day that I was right. Not so much now. Several months ago I had what I thought was a playful moment with my wife. I had been teasing her throughout the evening and was oblivious to how frazzled she was at the end of the day. I made the mistake of turning the light off on her before she got into bed causing her to stumble around in the dark. She blew her top at me – something that very rarely ever happens. The old me would have snapped back at her that she was being overly sensitive and that I wouldn’t tease her if I didn’t love her so much. Instead, I made a choice at that moment. I simply said, “Honey, I’m being totally childish and insensitive. I’m completely wrong and I’m sorry.” The situation was defused and there were no hard feelings. I’ve also stopped turning the light off on her before she gets into bed.
Being able to say “I’m sorry” is not an act of weakness but an act of honesty. Sincere apologies build relationships and are an indication that we value another person. Rarely will we find three little words that have as much power as “I am sorry.”
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.