I’m Sorry … And I Mean It!

Last week my husband was on a flight to Boston when the stewardess spilled a can of V8 all over the man sitting next to him. The man was drenched – V8 juice soaked into his lap, suit jacket, and white shirt. Some even got in his hair.

“I’d like to apologize,” the stewardess said, “But it wasn’t my fault. The can exploded. I can’t apologize for something that wasn’t my fault.”

Outrageously, the V8 can never apologized to the passenger. Perhaps because it was lacking lips and a brain.

A similar incident occurred several years ago. A teenage driver was speeding on our street while texting and lost control of her car. She deftly landed in our yard, though she had to crash through our picket fence to get there. When the girl’s mother arrived at the scene, she studied her daughter’s car and our fence before saying, “This isn’t so bad.” She then proceeded to ask us to not report it to our homeowners insurance.

Of course we were going to. This resulted in an exchange of some heated words.

Woman: My daughter is a good kid. She was in church all day.

My husband: I was in church today too, but you don’t see me crashing through people’s fences. What if my daughter had been in the yard when this happened?!

Woman (looking around): I don’t see any kids.

A simple “I’m sorry” would have made all the difference. Had the woman apologized, perhaps we would have calmed down and not contacted our insurance. We may have taken the woman’s offer to give us money to repair the fence and left insurance out of the equation. But nothing in her attitude gave us the impression she would follow through with that offer. Responsibility was not taken. A much needed apology never given.

If the stewardess on my husband’s flight had apologized for dumping a can of tomato juice on a passenger, other passengers might have felt bad for her. They may have left the flight talking about how well the stewardess handled the situation. Instead they spoke of how rude she was, and encouraged the V8 drenched man to file a complaint with the airline. When she shifted the blame to the self-imploding can, it made her look callous and immature.

Research has shown that patients are less likely to sue a doctor over a medical error if the physician simply says, “I’m sorry” in a kind way.* Whether it is pride or fear of a lawsuit, many doctors don’t take the time to apologize, which only makes the patient more angry and wanting retaliation – usually in the form of suing the doctor who made the mistake. But if the doctor apologizes, anger is quelled and a lawsuit is less likely to happen.

In most circumstances, it seems that two little words can change the course of events in a very big way.

* sources: Apologies and Medical Errors and Physician Apologies

15 thoughts on “I’m Sorry … And I Mean It!

  1. A careless word can kindle strife
    A cruel word may wreck a life
    A timely word may lessen stress
    A loving word can heal and bless.

    Proverbs 15:1- A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
    Such a good reminder Megan that the tongue needs to be controlled continually!

  2. So true! I once had a McDonald’s drive through person once say the lid came off my soda happened because of the way I grabbed it. It didn’t spill or nothing. I hadn’t complained about it. I wasn’t mad. I always believe accidents happen. I probably wouldn’t have even remembered the story if she hadn’t placed blame on me. I feel you should always say sorry and be apologetic – even if you aren’t. It just smoothes things over. If someone bumps into me, I say sorry. Then usually that person does, too. Problem averted, forgotten about and everyone moves on. People need to let their egos go! Great post!

  3. Those 2 words are very difficult for some people to say! I can’t believe that texter’s mom! I bet the texter didn’t even get punished.

  4. Ugh! Such a pet peeve of mine. It shouldn’t be that hard to admit fault but for some, it just is. And your fence story – seriously, I’d have felt the same way as you; an apology could have gone a long, long way.

    • What is that saying? “We attract more bees with honey than vinegar”? Or is it flies? It must be bees, because they make honey. But they also sting. (You now see how my brain works.)
      Sometimes apologizing doesn’t calm things down, but most often it does and it is worth it.

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with your point! Taking ownership for one’s misdeeds will go a long way. There is very little personal accountability nowadays and our young people are being taught how to “get out of” their messes and “cheating” and “beating the system” any way that they can.

    • I think so many young people have their parents fixing everything for them. I recently read an article about a man suing a college because his son wasn’t accepted when he applied. Personal accountability goes a long way.

  6. Pingback: What Inspires You? | Waiting on a Word

  7. Ahhh, ’tis the age of passing the buck, yes indeed. You just nailed it about how many parents have become ingrained in the knee-jerk reaction to jump to their kids’ defenses. It likely started when the kid was a toddler who didn’t work or play well with other toddlers and it continues to adulthood. Maybe through adulthood…up till Mommy and Daddy are in the grave. OOPS. Now who will make up excuses to shift blame for that kid who is now 40 and showing signs he is a loser? Such deflection of duty to demonstrate personal accountability and responsibility seems rampant. Sure hope that girl is/was able to figure out that texting while operating a car probably isn’t/wasn’t the wisest idea BEFORE she has/had a chance to injure, maim, or kill herself or some poor innocent soul.
    “I’m sorry” would be a real GLOBE fixer, or could have been, perhaps.

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