“I’m sorry”…learnings from a ten year old

Last week I arrived at school to pick up my kids to find my son crying in the schoolyard.

He and his mates were playing a game and when he wasn’t expecting it, the rules of the game changed on him.

When he tried to talk to his mates, they wouldn’t listen. He got frustrated, lost his temper and called one of his mates, a name.

Not cool!

He was upset, that he wasn’t being heard and his opinion was not respected. But also, he was upset at himself at losing his temper.

At the point when all this was going down, he just needed a hug from his mum, not a lecture about swearing. I used my better judgment and gave him a hug.

When we got home and he’d had a moment to calm down, he told me what happened exactly as I have to you above.

He asked me if he was going to get into trouble.

I simply said to him, “what do you think you need to do?”

He responded, “I need to apologise to my friend and explain to him why I got upset and why it is important that I am heard.”

He apologised when they were back at school, in fact they both did, gave eachother a hug.


We all stuff up. But why do we as adults, find it so difficult to acknowledge a stuff up (without feeling the need to then give an excuse or justification), particularly in the work place and move on?


I had a boss say to once how she had never met anyone who freely admits her stuff ups like I do. She asked me why. I said better out then in. Better to recognise the mistake, acknowledge it, learn from it and move on. It avoids wasting time trying to cover your tracks or redeem yourself in a round about way when all you needed to say was "I'm sorry, I stuffed up".

It takes more energy to pretend or hide your shortfalls when you do something wrong yet, in our fear of being found out, embarrassed, judged or your pride/ego being squashed, we can’t say I’m sorry.

But if you can acknowledge and apologise recognising what you did, why it was wrong (as opposed to justifying), it’s so much easier to move on because what happens is that a new level of trust is formed. It may be a little awkward at first but it’s amazing how a relationship can become much stronger as a result.

So if something is eating you up, at work or in life, speak up. Explain how you are feeling and why and if an apology is in order (even if you don’t think it does, dig a little deeper and put yourself in the other persons shoes), two simple words will speak volumes to your credibility.


You might just be surprised like my son. It may encourage the other person to reflect on themselves and their behavoiur to realise that they too need to say I’m sorry and extend an olive branch.

And as I said to my son, even if something isn’t completely your fault, be the better man (or woman), swallow your pride, clear the air and move on.