When We Screw Up — The Power of I’m Sorry

Credit: Alamy

Credit: Alamy

Things happen.

The unforeseen.

The accident.

The mishap.

A thoughtless phase uttered in public or in private.

Things beyond ones control.

Even things within one’s control but that don’t go the right way.

Tis life.

But when they do, and you disappoint someone, don’t make a commitment, don’t show up, can’t do something you said you’d do, there is an easy way to deal with that.

This rule, not a guideline is carved somewhere on a stone or slab of marble somewhere I’m sure.

I’m sure I’ve seen this somewhere important.

Thou shall start with…

I’m sorry.


I’m sorry, mea culpa, lo siento, Je suis désolé, Es tut mir Leid, Gomen’nasai.

This phrase exists in every language, I could go on but we’d here a long time.

Truly, it’s that phrase, NOTHING else to start.

Which is what you do when you disappoint, don’t show up, or can’t make a commitment.

Not the why (which one always appreciates in an apology). But the why should come after. And the truth is usually best here. Or if you are going to lie which is sometimes appropriate, you lie well, with some thought. Dogs don’t actually eat homework (unless its smeared in bacon fat).

There’s another popular phrase, something about excuses and another body part that everyone has… it is not coming to me right now. Let me know if you remember that one.

The words I’m sorry are difficult for many, humiliating even. It admits wrongfulness and weakness, it makes people feel vulnerable, in danger of losing power or status. I know people who would rather literally stick a red hot poker in their eye than utter those two words and they will say anything else but those actual words.

An apology that actually dances around those words, and the ones that flip around with excellent use of verbal judo to make whatever happen the other person’s fault are impressive but simply fall flat. No oomph. Hot air.

The thing is, I’m sorry, tis but a phrase, BUT are two teeny words that mean so much when said, when meant. (that’s key).

A trifle, a treasure. Saying I’m sorry is bravery beyond measure.

I like a rhyme, what can I say…

And, the bonus is when you are able to come up with a solution or substitution to your absence or foible? That right there is gold and highly appreciated. A class act.

The bonus, bonus is the make-up, what one may think to do afterwards. The thoughtfulness in how you might make something up to someone. Hiding, retreat, laying low is fine and sometime appropriate. But goodness, reaching out, sending something, doing something, even over compensating — how you decide to go out of your way for a moment of support and kindness. It never hurts, shows chutzpah and tends to set things right. Just saying.

Nobody is perfect.

I screw up all the time, and I hope I always practice what I preach, if I don’t feel free to call me on it, actually I expect people that I love and care about even strangers to do so. We all need a nudge in the right direction sometimes.

Expectations and assumptions lead to disappointment, yes, but when you sign up — yep people expect something of you and assume you are doing to do what you said you do — it just comes with the territory.

You know — Yes, I will. Yes, I’ve got you. Yes, I will show up.

So those assumptions only make an ass out of YOU and ME, if the bargain isn’t held up on one end.

The phrase “I’m sorry, not sorry” has become a phrase in our lingua that I’m not sure I quite like, though it too is appropriate in some circumstances. But not this one, not in a true apology.

And women, yes us gals, need to only use this phrase when the above applies. Not for EVERY DAMN THING THAT HAPPENS. Honestly, try substituting “Thank You” for any time you are about to utter I’m sorry or “excuse me” when bumping into someone. It’s interesting. Try it, see how that feels.

I’m not sorry I felt compelled to write this.

I’m glad I did, always reminding myself these things. There are a few big things in my life that I am truly sorry for, so you deal with them, say the words and move ever forward.

And thank you to the people in my life who know that being brave and saying I’m sorry when necessary is how we are the best versions of ourselves and that’s our job on this planet.

In my humble opinion.

Written by Head Maven & CEO, Heather Newman, Creative Maven

Want more Maven Moments? Once a month we share where to find Heather in the world and the most “maven/expert” opinions on marketing, brand, travel, music, and culture that we like from the internet.

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