We human beings have a lot of pride.
No one likes to be wrong, especially on the Internet. Yet, the Internet culture is one of ridiculing people, complaining, and ranting. People are unnecessarily snarky and downright mean. Even when negative statements are justified, tact and manners seem to fly out the window when commenting online.
Today, I’d like to propose that we all take time to say “I’m sorry” a little more often, especially to people in our community.
Not “I’m sorry you feel that way,” which really means, “I’m right, but I want to say something that is mildly snarky while still sounding like I take the high road even though I’m fooling nobody.”
Not “I’m sorry you had issues,” which really means, “You’re at fault for this problem. No one else is having issues.”
Not “I’m sorry that I can’t help you,” which really means, “I don’t feel like taking the time or making an effort to help you, even though I feel bad you have a problem.”
Not “I’m sorry, but…” because as my friend Deb Ng has said, “Usually, things that come after a ‘but’ mean that the first half of the statement isn’t true.
I’m not even proposing that you start to take on people’s problems. Not every “I’m sorry” has to come with a solution attached. Sometimes, “I’m sorry” is just that – a notice to the other person that you want to apologize for the issue at hand, and that you’d like their forgiveness. You’ve made a mistake.
Because we’re proud, it can be hard to admit a mistake. I struggle with it every day. I am my father’s daughter; I am a stubborn person. Bull-headed, my mother is fond of saying.
“I’m sorry” can make your community stronger, though. When you acknowledge another person’s feelings of anger or sadness, you give them a gift that we don’t see often enough online. And that’s the real high road. If you can make someone feel better instead of worrying about saving your own face and hiding your mistakes, that’s when you’ve become a real community manager.