– Littie Brown
Let’s be honest. We all make mistakes. We all make wrong choices.
And sometimes—in fact, usually—our mistakes and choices also affect other people.
When they do, we need to apologize.
But sometimes it takes more than just a simple apology.
Here’s what I mean.
In the book The Noticer by Andy Andrews, there’s a character named ‘Jones.’ Jones tends to show up just when it seems things are hopeless. And that’s when Jones shares “a little perspective” with those he interacts with.
At one point in the book, Jones states: “If one makes a mistake . . . then an apology is usually sufficient to get things back on an even keel. However—and this is a big ‘however’— most people do not ever know why their apology did not seem to have any effect. It is simply that they did not make a mistake; they made a choice… and never understood the difference between the two.”
What I learned from this is that there is a clear difference between making a mistake and making a choice that causes someone else pain.
We often ask forgiveness for a mistake, when, in reality, we made a definitive choice to do something that resulted in someone else being harmed. (Image via Pixabay)
And it can take a person a lot longer to get over a choice you made that caused them pain.
When your apology starts off with “if I was wrong,” or “If I hurt you,” you are not owning up to the choice you made. Instead, you’re trying to pass it off as an accident or a mistake. This creates a very weak apology.
Here’s a practical example:
If I accidently bump into a table and knock your favorite porcelain dish on the floor, causing it to break, I can (and should) apologize for being clumsy.
But if I deliberately pick up your favorite dish and hurl it against the wall, breaking it, that was a choice I consciously made. And it will take a lot more than a simple apology for you to get over the harm I caused.
So, I challenge you to think about a mistake you’ve made.
Ask yourself, “Was it really just a mistake or was it a choice?” If you determine it was a choice, then know that you need to offer more than just a simple apology.
In order to repair the relationship, you will need to exhibit true remorse and ask for forgiveness.
And that may be just the beginning of a longer journey toward reconciliation with that person.
But it is, in the very least, the necessary start of the journey.
This guest blog post was written by Littie Brown.
Littie is the author of Leadership Lessons from the HART.