I had an amazing weekend with some good friends recently. They brought their kids with them. Gorgeous little kids they were too!
I love having kids in the house, it’s been a long time. And, another bonus to having G is that there are still toys in the house that appeal to 3-8 year olds. Consequently, they made themselves at home very quickly…leaving us adults to relax and enjoy ourselves too.
Like most children of this age there is always going to be the occasional disagreement, and there was!
H, aged 8. O, aged 4 and J, aged almost 3 all got on really well! Until little J accidently hit O with a sword (toy one…obviously). Because he’s a good parent, J’s Daddy made him apologise.
LESSON 1: It doesn’t matter whether you meant to hurt someone or not and if it was an accident. You apologise. End of!
Little J, (bit tired, bit excited!) whacked O with the Sword and hurt him (not so much of an accident we think but the Jury is still out!). Daddy…removed sword from little J. Told him to apologise. Explaining that he’d hurt O and he needs to say sorry. Little J, being only almost 3 didn’t really understand the consequences of his actions…he just wanted his sword back and he wanted to play with H and O again.
H, was very annoyed. His little brother had been hurt and he didn’t like that. O wasn’t sure either.
Daddy made J apologise again. And he did. A real heartfelt apology (through sobs). But, as a 3 year old all he could reasonably understand was that he’d said sorry and now he wanted to play with them again. H&O didn’t quite feel the same. They didn’t want to play with him anymore and that was that!
LESSON 2: Sometimes saying sorry can never make things okay but you still have to say sorry and mean it. When you do something that hurts someone you have to accept the consequences of your actions and learn from it. Hopefully little J won’t hit anyone with a sword again and remember what happened when he did. A tough but important lesson for a 3 year old and probably one that will take longer to learn.
As adults we have no excuse not to apologise. If we get things wrong we need to say sorry. So why is this so hard? I started to think about my own experiences…
While I’ve lost touch with a number of friends over the years I’ve only ever fallen out with two as an adult.
The first was around 10 years ago. She did something that really hurt me and I found hard to forgive her for it. When she apologised (a week later) she then made excuses as to why she’d done what she’d done and how I needed to understand how my perceived actions had made her feel. Unfortunately, I’d already ‘stewed’ on what she’d said for a week, going over and over it in my head and was frustrated by the ‘no right to reply’ situation she’d left me in (she’d left a letter and gone on holiday!) by the time the apology came I was beyond livid. N.B. We’re friends again now but our relationship was scarred and will never be quite what it was (see lesson 2)
Lesson 3: An apology isn’t an apology if you put a ‘but’ at the end of it. It isn’t an apology if you defend your actions when you are saying sorry…just say sorry!
Lesson 4: When you do something to hurt or upset someone say sorry straight away, don’t leave it too long because the people you’ve hurt or upset just get angrier.
I fell out with another old friend very recently. I felt she’d behaved badly and she didn’t apologise to the person she’d upset (long story and one I won’t share in detail here) I didn’t contact her the next day. I was too angry and thought it was up to her to make contact first. Consequently she’s deleted me (and the person she upset!) from her life (and Facebook) and we haven’t spoken to each other since (Sad, because I thought we were very good friends). Sadly – even if she apologised now it’s too late for me. The damage has been done. (See lesson 4)
Basically, we are not very good at apologising, sincerely apologising, when we’ve made mistakes or upset or hurt someone. We are probably all guilty of trying to defend ourselves when we’ve made mistakes. It’s natural to want to put our version of events forward in an attempt to put things right but the fact is defending yourself after an apology simply diminishes it.
Over the last 20 months I’ve witnessed an object lesson from a provider organisation of how not to work with families. Their apology to the family of Connor Sparrowhawk for his death was forced (through social media and some local and national media exposure of the situation), meaningless, too late and followed by excuses and non-action. To my knowledge Nico Reeds family has never received an apology! (See lesson, 1, 2, 3 & 4 but with special emphasis on 2)
From April there is a new Duty of Candour for all care providers.
‘The duty of candour will require all health and adult social care providers registered with CQC to be open with people when things go wrong. The regulations would impose a specific and detailed duty of candour on all providers where any harm to a service user from their care or treatment is above a certain harm-threshold.
The duty of candour will be a legal requirement and CQC will be able to take enforcement action when it finds breaches.’
As part of this providers will also be required to apologise – but does it go far enough?
I’m not sure it does. It’s a good start but doesn’t go far enough for me…
Will this legislation change culture?
No, because ultimately cultural change is driven by the values, ethos and commitment of the organisations leaders and by its workforce. It starts with an acceptance that they are not yet good enough and can always do better. It starts with honest, open communication and real partnerships with the people they support and their families. Genuine involvement and real partnership.
It means saying sorry when you get things wrong…even the seemingly little stuff -stuff not stipulated in the Duty of Candour… e.g. “sorry we didn’t reply to your email/telephone message/ letter quickly enough”… “We are very sorry that an error was made in XXX’s medication. We have done the following to ensure this doesn’t happen again”…”We apologise most sincerely…for….(incident) this shouldn’t have happened….we are doing XYZ to make sure it doesn’t happen again and will keep you informed and involved throughout the investigation, please call xxxxx on tel number xxxxxx if you would like to discuss further”