Be willing to be wrong.
“I’m sorry” are two of the most powerful and effective words in the English language!
My friend’s daughter, Stephanie, and her fiancé, Dustin, were deep in the midst of plans for their upcoming wedding.
It was a Saturday, and they were running errands and making final decisions about the major details of the ceremony and reception. Needless to say, they were tired and stressed.
They were in Dustin’s truck and Steph looked over at him and said, “I know there are lots of details to get worked out but one thing is really important to me. I’d like to get a nice wedding band.”
Dustin looked over and said, “Why? That seems stupid.”
She heard the contempt in his voice. But she quietly said, “There are a lot of things that I don’t care about but I think having a nice wedding band is important. “
He looked over at her and said, “Don’t you think you’re being a little ridiculous?”
Well, I’ve always wanted a nice wedding band,” she said.
Dustin said, “I just don’t get it. I think it’s stupid.”
At this point tears started filling up in her eyes. She said, “I’m just trying to tell you this is really important to me.” She got really quiet and turned her head towards the window.
Dustin could sense she was upset and said, “Look. I’m just saying I think you’re being ridiculous.”
Steph said, “If it’s a matter of money, I can contribute.”
“That’s even more stupid,” he said as his fists tightened on the wheel.
Now tears were rolling down her cheeks and they were both quiet.
She finally broke the silence and said, “It’s something I’m going to have my whole life and I just thought it would be good to get a nice one.”
“Your whole life? It’s just one night and I think it’s a waste to spend money on a wedding band that’s just for one night.”
“Wait? One night? I’m talking about a wedding band… to go with my engagement ring, not a wedding band to play at the reception!”
“Really?” he said. “I’m sorry. I thought you were talking this whole time about a wedding band to play music at the reception.”
“No silly! I was talking about a ring!” she said as they looked at each other and burst out laughing.
Two words, “I’m sorry,” can change everything. In a moment the tension fades, perspectives shift, communication and connection deepen; the relationship is restored.
“I’m sorry” is not saying, “You are absolutely right, I am a jerk and I did that on purpose.” It is saying, “I’m sorry you are hurting and that my action/words or lack of action contributed to those feelings; it was not my intention to hurt you.”
A crucial question is: Is being right more important than this relationship?
I encourage you to ask yourself this question often in the midst of a tense conversation or disagreement. Remembering this question reminds me the relationship is most important and helps me practice Listen, Learn, Love, especially when I don’t want to. It has kept me from making a difficult situation worse and reminded me to be willing to say I’m sorry.
Knowing this truth and putting it into practice often seems like crossing the Grand Canyon. We falsely view being the first to apologize as a sign of weakness or as caving in. What if you reframed the choice to be the first to say “I’m sorry” as a sign of strength and humility? You willingly relinquish the demand to be right, communicating that this person and your relationship is more important. Can you imagine how your relationships would improve?
“I’m sorry” is not an admonition of guilt. It is not declaring you purposely did or said something wrong or are taking responsibility for what you may be accused of doing. Sometimes it simply acknowledges their hurt and your sorrow for their struggle. It is giving them a place to share their feelings and your impact on them.
- A crucial question is: Is being right more important than this relationship?
- Two words, “I’m sorry,” can change everything.