Based in Washington, Ross is a general manager of a food safety company. His musings explore life, work and every moment in between.

Apologies can be tricky.

Friday afternoon was setting up to be fun. I was about to play in a charity golf tournament with some buddies to support a good cause and create some new connections in Tacoma. I left work around lunch, changed my clothes and drove the 25 minutes out to Gig Harbor. I arrived with some time to check in, warm up, and scarf down some food. Except there were not a lot of people around.

Uh oh.

I decided that this was not too strange, I’d just walk out on the range and see if check-in was out there. As I drew near I saw several pop up tents and people milling about. It looked a little smaller than anticipated and as I drew close I realized that these were not the tents of a tournament, they were those of an equipment demo day.

Uh oh.

I quickly dialed my friend, “Hey, where are you?” and he said the name of a different course. I found myself over an hour away from where I needed to be with only 40 minutes until we teed off.

Crap.

I called my friend back to admit I would not make it and “sorry I screwed up” but the apology came out sounding strange. “I’m so embarrassed. This isn’t like me. I can’t believe I did this.” Etc. Yet when I reflected later, I realized that I was acting like the victim. Did I say sorry? Sort of. My sorry was relating to how I was feeling, not considering him. My sorry was about me. Yet a real apology is about the other person. It is not through my own emotional prism but through theirs.

I texted him later and said “I’m sorry that I let you down” and he told me “not to beat myself up.” Yet over the weekend I am still thinking about the apology loop I was falling into. My first apology was not about him – the victim and wronged party – it was about me. I had shifted roles to the victim. To make a real mea culpa requires us to put away our own perspective, feelings and emotions and to make amends with only their feelings and perspective in mind. An apology requires us to put the wronged party first. My first attempt did not even come close.

I can do better. Experiences like this teach me my mistakes can create enlightened moments for me. I will try to be more mindful of how my apologies sound in the future. Immediately, however I will double check my appointments to make sure I’m headed to the right place.

The 7 Stages of a Project

Better, not harder.