Mistakes happen

How to Apologize - Slightly-off-kilter.comThere’s nothing wrong with making a mistake.  Thank GOD.  Because I make plenty.  But what happens when your mistake affects another in a negative way?

It doesn’t matter if you meant to hurt someone them or their feelings.  It doesn’t matter if it was a joke.

The truth of the matter is that if another person feels harmed, then that is their reality.  You harmed them.  And if you did the damage, only you can make it right.

When I started this post, I was thinking about my boys.  How often does a teachable moment come up where we can talk of qualities like compassion and forgiveness when you are raising children.  Play time and joking around can sometimes turn ugly without warning or notice.

Mustache on a stick - MEAN BABY ™

Mustache on a stick – MEAN BABY ™

Then this morning I see a situation on Facebook where one company used my friend Megan’s Mean-Baby ™  marketing collateral, erasing the logo of course, without any credit where credit is due.  I happen to know how many painstaking hours were put into creating the mustache on a stick and it rubbed me wrong…

{Look how adorable those ‘staches are.  BTW – that pic is one I took… not the one from the offending facebook post… I really don’t want to give that company any press… good or bad… so I’m keeping them nameless.}

That’s when it hit me.  Mistakes happen.  Sometimes on purpose… sometimes because we aren’t thinking… sometimes without any intention of malice whatsoever.

It’s not the mistakes I want to focus on though, because it seems that we have that DOWN PAT.  What is more important – and what I feel is lacking in our world – is what happens next.  The Apology.

And not just an off-the-cuff  “Oops.  Sorry” But a real honest-to-goodness apology.

How to Apologize

(1) I’m sorry.

This part we know… even my kids will mumble the “I’m sorry” part with little prompting… but wait – don’t go yet.  You aren’t done.

(2) I did it.

Whatever it is – OWN it.  Admit your mistake. Even if you didn’t mean to, admit that you caused the harm.  Use no excuses.  Place no blame.  There are no room for “buts” in this section of a true, honest-to-goodness apology.  If you find yourself saying something like “I’m sorry I used your marketing collateral without proper credit but my kids just loved it and were playing with it so…” or “I’m sorry I punched you so hard but you kept looking at me” You are justifying.  You are negating that there was any wrong doing. You are invalidating the other person’s feelings.  You are saying – in a sense – I’m sorry you are upset but you shouldn’t be because I’m right and you are wrong.

Try instead “I’m sorry I used your marketing collateral without proper credit… I shouldn’t have done that” or “I’m sorry I punched you so hard.  I shouldn’t have done that”

See the difference?  a simple change and all of a sudden, you are taking responsibility for your actions and confirming that the other party is NOT to blame.  And let’s be honest, if you truly believe they are to blame, why are you even apologizing in the first place.

(3) How can I make it right?

Ahhh yes… this last part is the one most people forget to include. If you are apologizing – from the heart – If you REALLY didn’t mean to cause harm, you want to make it right.  Don’t you?  Guess what?  It’s on you to take that step.  It’s not up to the wronged party to just FORGIVE you because you batted your eyes and asked oh so nicely.  Words are just that – WORDS.  But Actions?  Now we are talking…

The offended party may come up with something right away – in the case of the punching boys, it was a matter of seconds before brotherly love once again filled our home.  {and by brotherly love I kinda mean punching but where both boys understand the game} but sometimes it will take some time for the hurt party to process.  And if that’s the case – GIVE THEM TIME.  But – when they do come back honor them.  Unless integrity isn’t something you care to be known for… just sayin…

In the case of the ‘stache shot, a half-hearted attempt was made to credit… but only after it was made clear that they were caught. My friend Megan was left with feelings of anger and disappointment over the ordeal and even asked her inner circle of trust how to “get over it” and the fact is, it’s on them to make it right and they didn’t.

People make mistakes… it’s gonna happen.  But what you do next is what determines the kind of person you are and the kind of person others perceive you to be.  I hope that my preaching sinks into my boys… sadly even adults miss the mark on this one.


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