“Say sorry!”

I don’t know anyone who likes to admit when they’re wrong. It’s a hard thing to do for most people. It takes a lot to go to someone and apologise for something you’ve done/not done. It takes even more to apologise for something that truly wasn’t your fault, something that I’ve been learning about recently.

Last Friday at work I had an… Altercation with someone. More accurately, I took a message for her in which the person gave me the incorrect phone number and she blew her top. All day she was at me. She got right up in my face, yelling and being very insulting. In short, it was extremely unprofessional and rude. And it made me cry. A lot. On Monday I spoke to my supervisor about it and basically told her how awful it was and how unfair it was that this woman treated the staff this way (I should put in quickly here, I work on reception and this woman was one of the people I do reception for. She’s not my boss, I don’t work directly for her, making it even more out of line). My supervisor agreed and we decided she would talk to our boss.

Then my supervisor told me that in the future, I should just apologise and try to fix the mistake, even though it wasn’t me that had made it. At first I was furious. Why should I have to apologise if I hadn’t made a mistake?! Why couldn’t I just tell her to f*** off?! Well, in short, because I had to be the bigger person. While my reaction would usually be “I didn’t do it, don’t look at me”, my supervisor explained that, unfortunately, in our role it was often easier to just say sorry. She told me that often the people that we do reception for will find errors or things that have gotten switched around and that while I may not have done anything wrong, if they’re upset they will usually react better to me saying sorry and offering to fix it, than if I just try to fix it.

Now, I have no problem taking responsibility for a mistake. If I mess up, then I’ll try to fix it. I do, however, have an issue with taking responsibility for someone else’s mistake. However, in my role it is far easier to just say sorry. Easier, not easy.

Saying sorry has never been easy for me. Apologising in general, especially with people I’m close to. But it’s something that I’m learning to do more and more. I think part of the reason I find it so difficult is that when I was little I never saw adults apologising. As I grew up I found I didn’t have to apologise that often either, except for doing the awkward sorry-shuffle through a crowded place – you know the one, “sorry, sorry, sorry, excuse me, sorry”.

I can remember this one particular time I had to apologise. I found it so difficult. I used to nanny for these two kids and I had made a promise to one of them, something like he could have x for dessert, but then I forgot and we were running out of time, so when he said “BUT YOU PROMISED!” I snapped at him, which obviously wasn’t fair and upset him. Later on, I remembered having promised and so I steeled myself up and apologised. I just said something like “I’m sorry I snapped at you. You were right, I did promise. How about we do it tomorrow night?” and just like that it was all okay again.

I think learning to put your pride aside and say sorry is a difficult thing, only made harder when you’re not responsible, but I also think it’s an important skill to have. It’s certainly something I’m going to have to work on. And like my supervisor said, you can always be swearing on the inside.

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