A simple life lesson: Learn to say “I’m sorry.”

Photo of the Russian Navy being displayed as a tribute to American Veterans at the Democratic National Convention

Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images

One of our kids has a seriously difficult time saying she’s sorry. I haven’t been able to figure out why, and we’ve all come to understand this small quirk. Understanding it, however, doesn’t mean we’re accepting it. We’re still looking for ways to encourage her to find the… courage? humility? to offer a sincere apology when she’s wrong. The latest idea: Having “sorry time” at the dinner table where we go around the table with each person offering an apology to someone else. I’ll let you know how it goes.

But this quirk doesn’t seem to be limited to my house. I see countless examples of business people, politicians, friends – you name it – who seem to be afflicted by the same thing. An example:

I read an article in Navy Times about a snafu and the Democratic National Convention. Here’s what happened:

On the last night of the Democratic National Convention, a retired Navy four-star took the stage to pay tribute to veterans. Behind him, on a giant screen, the image of four hulking warships reinforced his patriotic message.

But there was a big mistake in the stirring backdrop: those are Russian warships.

While retired Adm. John Nathman, a former commander of Fleet Forces Command, honored vets as America’s best, the ships from the Russian Federation Navy were arrayed like sentinels on the big screen above.

These were the very Soviet-era combatants that Nathman and Cold Warriors like him had once squared off against.

Is this a big deal? Well… sort of. It would depend greatly on whom you ask. But let’s assume for now that a significant number of people would find this blunder on the range of mildly annoying to extremely offensive. At this point, the DNC Committee really has only one recourse: apologize. Early and often. Simply offer a statement like, “We really screwed up here and we’re very sorry.”

Instead, the spokesman for the Committee said he was unable to comment and that he had to track down personnel to find out what happened. Notice how those aren’t the same things: One is simply accepting responsibility, the other is dodging it.

This is one of the big problems in government, businesses, and organizations of all sizes. What people want from leaders is the courage and humility to admit when they’re wrong, accept responsibility, and offer recompense when necessary. If they do that, then it’s up to us to accept it and move on.

To do today: accept when you’re wrong, take responsibility, and offer an apology. We’ll all be better off for it.

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