Reprinted with permission from DRIVE
A troubling incident at a senior living community made national news recently. Not so surprising, it happens way more than any of us cares to admit. The daughter of the alleged victim, a resident living with dementia, was interviewed and something she said stuck with us.
No one from the nursing home said they were sorry.
The words “I’m sorry” can smooth over, soothe, pacify, calm. The words may not have erased what happened but the gesture could have deescalated the situation and brought some humanity to it.
Oftentimes, as leaders we go into disaster recovery mode. We are fact finding, we are problem solving, we are hard, we are stoic. We are also flawed and human.
But are we humbled, are we compassionate, are we sensitive, are we empathetic, are we sympathetic? Are we sorry?
And, do we say it?
How about in our personal lives? An argument with a spouse ends in “I’m sorry” and a hug. It could end in doors slamming and silence. “I’m sorry” fills the gap and brings the couple together. It brings humanity.
We need more humanity.
We hear stories all the time about large organizations not apologizing. A car company not apologizing for a defect that caused a major accident with deaths, a school not apologizing for their role when an issue with a student escalates out of control … turn on the news any given night and there’s another example.
Is it because we live in a litigious society? Being sorry indicates fault and being sorry puts you on the hook for a big bucks law suit?
And yet we use “I’m sorry” constantly for silly things! How often do you tell someone “no apologies necessary” or “please stop apologizing”! Whether it be for a simple interruption or sneezing one time too many. We’ve watered down the words “I’m sorry” for trivial things and stopped using the words for when they matter most.
As a leader you have many opportunities to connect with the people you lead, the people you serve and their families. Make sure the words “I’m sorry” are a part of your leadership repertoire and not because you are afraid of bad reviews and law suits. Do it because you are in the business of caring for people and you are in the perfect position to bring more humanity to humankind. Don’t lose sight of the power and importance of these words. Don’t ever be too big or too resolute to use them.