I’m Sorry

Last week, my daughters were in town, and we stopped at Burger King then drove to a park to eat. When we got to the park, we realized that Sarah had not received the Impossible Burger she had ordered. So we went back. The guy at the counter offered to make us another, but I wanted to ask a manager how someone could put a beef burger in a green wrapper and not notice what was going on. The manager offered us a free medium Dr Pepper coupon and said he would speak to the cook. None of which answered my question. What had happened? It was inconvenient for us to have to go back and insist on getting what we had paid for.

The very next day we went to the lawyer. The receptionist said our lawyer was out of town, and someone should have called us. Then she went to see if someone else could help us. We waited. The lawyer’s assistant was able to help us. She started by apologizing, then halfway through our meeting she apologized again and then she closed the meeting with an apology. As I pulled up to work, I received a voice message from the lawyer herself, apologizing again. We had shown up on time, and waited about three minutes while they found someone who could do what we needed, and then had left satisfied. They apologized no fewer than four times, maybe five or six (more than the situation warranted for sure).

Then that night one daughter said something very unkind, in public, to my other daughter. Second daughter left in tears. An apology was deemed insincere. They didn’t speak at all the next day and the first daughter left town without having reconciled with her sister.

The guy at Burger King didn’t feel the need to apologize for someone on his end screwing up then offered a coupon that cost them 20 cents worth of product for having us drive across town twice to get the meal we ordered.

The lawyer who screwed up fixed the problem in less time than I would have expected to wait in the waiting room in the first place, then apologized to the point where it was almost uncomfortable.

And my daughters who love each other more than anyone else in the world were unable to reconcile in 20 hours, causing one to leave town in tears and the other to regret that her sister had left town early and without saying goodbye to her.

As you can see, everyone from fast food workers to lawyers makes mistakes. How we handle them makes a big difference. A simple, “Whoops, that should not have happened, let me fix it for you,” will go a long ways. A “I’m sorry you had to come back, here’s something of more than minimal value to make up for your inconvenience,” is also a classy move.

It’s difficult for most people to admit they were wrong. It hurts your pride and your sense that you are in control of yourself. But they are words, and as my kids on the speech team will tell you words have power. “I really screwed up, I wasn’t thinking and that was a very mean thing to say. I’m very sorry I hurt you that way. Can you forgive me?” Is it so difficult to say?

When someone you love hurts you, someone you know you will forgive, is it worth the heartache to hold a grudge? Maybe “I am still very upset with you, but I love you, and I expect you to do better, but I forgive you” would be good. I have never gotten apology flowers from a husband (the first was never wrong and the second hasn’t hurt me) but a grand gesture might not be a bad idea if it was an egregious wrong.

“I’m sorry you think I hurt your feelings” is not an apology, by the way.

So if you see me opening my meal to check while I am in the drive through at Jimmy John’s (it’s happened there too) or any other fast food place, this is why.

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