My school has a history of fucking up.
Information isn’t given to us – or is given to use too late for it to act on it effectively – and each of these fuck ups is followed by an apology.
After all of the apologies I’ve heard, I’ve learnt a few things about apologies.
A good apology can soothe ruffled feathers, but a bad one can cause irritation to get under someone’s skin and fester. An apology starts with I’m sorry, but it’s what comes next that can make it or break it.
For example, there are times when I’m sorry is followed by excuses that sour, and even negate, the sorry.
I’m sorry but you need to understand…
I’m sorry but it’s not my fault…
I’m sorry but please…
I’m sorry… but…
And I understand the motivation behind but – when someone isn’t at fault, they don’t feel they should be blamed for something. But I also understand the people on the receiving end. Excuses make the sorry feel insincere. Like the receiver ought to have known these things, and needs to reply with each excuse as to why it doesn’t apply to them, why they wouldn’t have known that, why it’s not their fault either.
I’ve been on the receiving end of but far too many times. I don’t think I’ve ever assumed that the person behind but is actually sorry. I’ve felt like I have justify why I didn’t know something I couldn’t have known, or why someone else didn’t do something that they should have done.
But a good apology can mean the world.
Try I’m sorry followed by:
This shouldn’t have happened.
I shouldn’t have said that.
I should have done something.
I was wrong.
They were wrong.
This is wrong.
Each one of these feels like it means something. It feels like sorry isn’t just the polite, expected response. It carries weight. It carries understanding. Sympathy.
There is a final step, which I don’t think ought to be undertaken unless one can – and intends to – fulfil what it promises.
I’ll make sure this never happens again.
I’ll try my best not to do it again.
I’ll be more careful in future.
I’ll fix this.
Then it really makes a difference. This final step acknowledges the importance of the situation, and assures the receiver that it is being taken as seriously as it ought to be.
Apologising isn’t just a form of politeness. Apologies matter. A person who is angry or upset wants their anger, displeasure, or frustration to be acknowledged. Trying to brush past it or make excuses for what has upset them will only make things worse.
But acknowledging it,
acknowledging how someone else feels,
acknowledging that a mistake was made
and that it ought not be made again.
It really makes all the difference in the world.