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I feel so lucky to be learning and working in education today.  There has been what can only be called a shift in…philosophy?  attitude? We are becoming relational.  We’ve been talking about relationships for awhile now. We recognize that the relationship between teacher and student impacts achievement.  We know that colleagues are more engaged when they have a best friend at work.   We are starting to genuinely value the power of relationships in our professional success.

In the past, there seemed to be an underlying message that power was the key to success.  The person most able to control others, appear dominant, and exert authority was also the one most likely to be promoted.   I don’t think that is our reality anymore…at least not in education.  More and more the person with the best people skills is the one who is promoted. Emotional intelligence is no longer a nice-to-have; it is the most important thing to have.

People underestimate the need for human connections- especially in moments of great tension, stress, or anger.

As a building administrator, I was always amazed at the power of an apology. So often when someone was angry (a student, a parent, a staff member), the first thing I would say was, “I’m sorry that happened.”  It was not an admission of guilt on anyone’s part.  It did not acknowledge that the person was sharing an entirely accurate account of the events.  It was simply a statement that I was, in fact, sorry for the situation that was causing them pain.  And I was sorry.

In almost every case, that, at least in some part, would defuse the situation. People need to know that others are listening. It calmed the situation and made it possible to explore the issue with less emotional charge.  This was not only true when I was mediating a situation in which I was not directly involved.  It was true when I was the one who had done something, not done something, or said something that made someone upset. I made (and continue to make) plenty of mistakes as a leader.  When that happens, I always try to start with, “I’m sorry.”

I do not feel like I am less effective, less in control, less in charge when I apologize.  In fact, I feel like I am being a better leader and a better model.

One thought on “Never Underestimate the Power of Apologizing

  1. I could not agree more. In the end, people just want to be validated. Apologizing allows that to happen. It doesn’t mean you’re in agreement, it simple means you’re sorry that there’s been a misunderstanding or that the situation occurred.

    I don’t know that I agree that those with a high emotional IQ and people skills are the ones being promoted. I can only speak from my own experience (I’ve worked in a low income school for 15 years) and I just don’t see it. In fact, it sometimes feels like the opposite. In my mind relationships are the most important part of being a good educator. It’s what helps us reach kids and help families. It’s definitely what makes me good at my job. I just don’t see leadership “walking the walk” in that regard. Relationship building needs to happen between admin and teachers too. I feel like it’s very much an “us v them” culture and I don’t think it’s a good thing. We could do great things if we realized we’re all in this together. I’m so very grateful for my colleagues that I work with every day. They’re amazing. They work so hard and go above and beyond. We support each other. But we don’t really feel supported. I wish the philosophy you talk about was our reality.

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