I know there are people out there who believe that allowing those three words to come from their lips is a sign of weakness, but I could not disagree more. I have grown to believe that just the opposite is true, provided the words are heartfelt. For me, saying those words is a way of acknowledging:
- I genuinely care about you as a human being
- I take personal responsibility for the mistake I made
- I will do my part not to allow this to happen again
Don't get me wrong, I don't relish the opportunity to apologize, as I would prefer not to make the mistake or hurt someone who is important to me in the first place. That said, if I inadvertently do either, I am quick to own the situation I helped to create (there are no accidents). My experience is that those unwilling to apologize are the ones who are weak, who tend to blame others for a less than optimal outcome, and who may not value people as much as they claim. In fact, the quickest way to tell another person they do not matter to us or that we take no ownership for the situation we helped to create is by being too proud to utter these three words in a meaningful way.
These won't cut it:
- I am sorry you feel this way
- I am sorry this happened
- I am sorry if you think I did something wrong
- I am sorry I caused this situation
- I am sorry I hurt you
- I am genuinely sorry and this is how I am going to make it right
A leader who fails to take responsibility for a mistake is not a leader I choose to follow and a friend who fails to apologize for negatively impacting another human being is not a friend of mine. May we all care enough about ourselves and those around us to express our sincere condolences for negative situations we help to create (whether intentional or otherwise). May we all be strong enough to say "I am sorry."
"It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one's heart rather than out of pity. A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and values in order to genuinely apologize." - Stephen Covey