Learn to apologise

“Sorry” is just a five-letter word but this word is just not for everybody, especially in the classroom or workplace.

Some teachers find apologising downright embarrassing while some bosses never apologise. This could be attributed to circumstantial reasons whereby teachers fear that naughty and mischievous kids will override their instructions and wreck havoc in class, while argumentative employers are imagined to up their ante in their insubordination as well as their behaviour and communication styles. For educators and job supervisors, it will be interesting to consider if the rebellious behaviours exhibited by their students or employees is (partly) due to the fact that the former never apologise – sometimes not even once.

Apology is more than a seven-letter word. When used for the right reasons, it is an acknowledgement that someone has said or done something that may be incorrect. It is a statement not of cowardice or weakness but of strong inner character to further illustrate the fallacy of man, of plucking up the courage to let others know that they matter. It is the consideration and prioritisation of others and placing them before self. Apologising for interrupting others when they are talking about their thoughts, hopes and inspiration is the contributing factor that allows ideas to flow freely in a meeting, the thoughts to stream out in words in the classroom and the freedom to allow others to pursue their endeavours- as long as all these thoughts and ideas contribute positively to a better world. To apologise is not restrictive or confining to oneself. On the contrary, it widens one’s horizons (as it enables us to learn more from other) and improves friendships.

There is a reason why “please”, “thank you” and “sorry” are commonly and prevalently promoted words used in everyday life. While “please” shows consideration for others and  “thank you” exhibits appreciation, acceptance and gratitude of others in most situations, these words are not  an all-encompassing cure for all situations. In times when one has make a mistake, “please” and “thank you” will only bring him/her so far. People usually will not accept a mistake in the absence of an apology, which probably explains why the usage of “sorry” is important. Parents often insist that a child apologise for his/her mistakes, teachers demand that students apologise when the latter are in the wrong and managers often expect employees to apologise when making a mistake. Even newspaper editorial teams apologise when they have made a typing error in their reports. When teachers want their students to apologise, they often call this “teachable moments” (selecting the right time to teach the kids lessons in life). When parents demand that their kids apologise when the latter are in the wrong, they sometimes call it “maintaining discipline”. When job supervisors reprimand their subordinates for making mistakes, they sometimes call it “maintaining organisational/departmental discipline”. If apologising serves so many useful purposes, then why is it so difficult for some people to apologise? Indeed, for some, “sorry” seems to be the hardest word.

Apology has to be both ways. Asking others to apologise but unwilling to do so personally just doesn’t work. Kids learn from their parents, students take after their teachers and employees regard their bosses as role models.

Life works in a somewhat reciprocal manner.

The same goes for communication.


One thought on “Learn to apologise

  1. I say sorry to my students all the time and I don’t feel it undermines my authority. Instead I think it helps build a stronger connection. My students feel better about making mistakes when they see it as a fact of life. Pretending to be infallable actually isolates ones self from the students.


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