“Sorry” really is the hardest word

In Elton John’s 1976 “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” the lyrics deal to the fact that apologising is one of the hardest things to do.

So why is that? And how do we teach our children to say sorry earnestly? Learning how to truly say “sorry” and apologise is one of the most important life hacks we can teach our young children. And while we as a society expect people to apologise to us, apologising ourselves is often one of the hardest things for people to do.

I wasn’t brought up in a family that was good at apologising. Arguments were very much win/lose with no real role modelling when it came to how to apologise. In my early relationships I very much adopted that way of behaving. Aspiring to win an argument rather than reaching an amiable outcome, often refusing to see the other persons viewpoint and getting hung up on being right. And as a quick thinker (verbal gymnastics comes natural to me) I could quite literally crush people around me.

It was only when I met James that I understood the value of apologising and truly meaning it. You see, in relationships and in life we make mistakes and owning these mistakes are the difference between being a leader and a follower…and ultimately the ability to forge long lasting loving and respectful relationships.

The way I was raised as a child, saying “sorry” just seemed tokenistic, in fact having had a discussion about it recently I was told that “sorry” was only a word and meaningless if you didn’t mean it. So asking someone to apologise when they really didn’t mean it had no bearing or value.

And while I understand where that comes from, it certainly isn’t the way that I think about it or the way I raise our children to think about saying sorry. Saying sorry is about acknowledging that we’ve made a mistake, that we have caused another person pain and that by acknowledging this, we are doing our best to make amends. It’s about suppressing our ego and self-preservation, putting our hand up and saying “I shouldn’t have done that and I am sorry it caused you pain”.

I look at relationships and I wonder how many times couples fail each other and their marriage or partnership simply by their inability to say sorry. We need to ask ourselves is winning an argument so much more important than finding a way to move forward?

So what’s my advice? Well, it’s simple. Learn to say “sorry” and mean it!  No ifs, buts or maybes. Role model the behaviour and make sure you take the opportunity to say sorry to your child if needed and in return ask that they do the same. Ultimately this all boils down to giving and receiving respect, which I believe is one of the most important foundations of parenting.

So, by teaching your child to say sorry you’ll likely give your child an advantage not just in their relationship with their partner but something that is likely to transcend into their work life. Being a leader is ultimately about responsibility and accountability, so saying sorry is something any great leader needs to master.