On the same day this article came out about Linus Torvalds, the founder and BDFL of Linux
I had the occasion to apologize to someone I work with. The parallels between Linus’s story on my own struck me (although everything about his story is much larger compared to mine): we both lead technical, remote teams that principally communicate in writing. And we both can have the tendency to forget how much of an impact our words can have when we fire them into the ether.
In short, I had been an asshole, and it was time for me to apologize.
I’ll never understand why people don’t apologize, and apologize directly. I think it’s one of the most underutilized skills and behaviors in the world. Everyone is human; everyone makes mistakes; everyone hurts other people, intentionally or unintentionally. If you don’t take responsibility for it, those transgressions accumulate and eventually people (even the people you’re closest with) will no longer want to have anything to do with you. If you do, then not only do you reset the relationship, but you can actually build a stronger one by signaling that you’re willing to accept some humble pie for the sake of the relationship — that it matters that much to you. There’s a very big in results between the two behaviors and it just doesn’t compute to me why people don’t see that and can’t bring themselves to say they’re sorry.
Relatedly, Sorry Watch is a pretty funny blog that analyzes public apologies (e.g. by celebrities and corporations) and savages wishy-washy non-apologies.