Say “Sorry”

-Commander VK Jaitly 

Way back in 1986, I was driving on motorway probably M5 from Plymouth to London over the weekend with my wife and little daughter at a speed of about 90 miles/hour. I was enjoying my smooth drive while thanking Indian Navy that had sent me to UK as commissioning crew of INS Viraat erstwhile HMS Hermes, the flagship of Royal Navy during Falkland Wars of 1982. While I was fully engrossed in driving, suddenly a police SUV just came on my right with flashing lights and directed me to stop on the shoulder (extreme left lane).

“Sir, You were over speeding. You were driving at 90 miles/hr while the speed limit is 70 miles/hr”, said the police officer. “But I was driving at the same speed as others cars ahead of me and in the next lane”, I replied.
“But they slowed down when they saw us and you continued at the same speed. I have to cut a ticket (challan) for you. Show me your Driving Licence”, asked the police officer.

I gave my booklet type of license to him and he was trying to figure out what it was and from where it was issued. I told him that I was from India and the driving licence was also issued from India. But I also glanced all the 5 or 6 pages of the licence booklet and didn’t find word ‘India’ anywhere. Place of issue written was Ballabhgarh and not even Distt. Faridabad.

Then I took out my Indian Navy I-card and told him that I was in England on deputation and posted on HMS Hermes and we had come to buy that aircraft carrier for India. And then I added,”I am new to your country and I am Sorry that I was over speeding.”

Listening the word Sorry and HMS Hermes and Indian Navy, his face expressions immediately changed. He handed over my I-card and Bhallabhgarh issued Driving Licence and said, “OK Sir, please don’t repeat this offence again. I am recording the offence but not giving you the ticket (the challan).”

I am sure being a Lieutenant of Indian Navy and posted on HMS Hermes must have had some impact but I feel a sincere ‘Sorry’ from my side for breaking the traffic rule had much greater impact.

This word ‘Sorry’ is a very powerful word. But the sad part is that many people are very conservative in using this word. This word has the power to disarm your opponent whosoever it may be, and he/she may be raging with anger. This word has a magic in it. It works like a balm. It soothes the feelings of others who may have been hurt by you may be accidently and unintentionally. I have yet to come across a person who continues to fight with you despite your saying ‘Sorry’ sincerely. Here the word ‘sincerely’ is also important. Your body language and the tone should re-inforce your ‘Sorry’. The ‘Sorry’ should come from your heart and then it will do the wonder.

I am sure that most of the readers of this article will be remembering many incidents in their life from their childhood days and then in the college and then in the industry and even in your family life where a ‘Sorry’ by you to the other party solved the problem or someone said sorry to you and you were left with no option but to pardon him or her.

I am also sure that some of you may be remembering some grave incidents that led you to great harm, loss and inconvenience just because you decided not to say ‘Sorry’ to the other party. May be you felt that your stand was correct and the other person was at fault. Just write down the numeral 6 on a piece of paper while sitting on the table and ask your wife sitting across the table what it is and there is no doubt that it is 9 for her.

I know of an excellent Naval Officer who got married to an excellent girl. We attended their grand marriage at Mumbai. According to me it looked as if the famous saying “Made for Each other” was coined for them. We came on transfer to Delhi and there was no communication with this couple for almost five years. One fine day, I happened to meet this officer at Naval Officers’ Mess at Kota House at Delhi and after initial courtesies, I enquired about his smart wife. His reply stunned me, “Oh Sir, you don’t know, we got separated two years back.” I couldn’t believe my ears. How can this happen? I knew both of them and they were a lovely and jovial couple. I didn’t want to probe into his personal life too much but he narrated himself the sequence of events that led to their divorce. You know what was missing during their very normal bickering between any husband and wife. None of them said “Sorry” to the other person ever and those minor differences and hot discussions led them to divorce.

So many times, we take a rigid stand in our life on a particular issue without realising that there may be other angles to look at it also. So an unending feud starts between the two parties. A simple sorry by one of the party with a statement ‘May be I am not able to appreciate your point of view’ will end the feud. This doesn’t bring down your stature in the eyes of the other person or in the society and in fact such simple stance enhances your stature in the eyes of all those who are watching you or come to know about it at a later date.

Just imagine that you commit a blunder in your organization and you know that you are at fault. There are two choices for you. First choice is that you don’t accept your fault and try to push the blame on someone else or the system or say you don’t know. Chances are that your boss and the other people will ultimately come to know that you committed a blunder and then tried to push the matter under the carpet. Consequences could be here that you may be even thrown out of the company. Second choice is that you straight away go to your boss and tell him that you have committed a blunder and it was unintentional. Narrate the full incident to him and say “Sorry” with full sincerity. Your body language should be such that you convey that you feel miserably bad that this mistake has happened because of your action. And your apology should indicate that you have learnt a great lesson of your life and such mistake will never happen again. I guarantee you that your boss may hold his head on hearing this news and pull his hair apart to know about the loss to the company but shall pardon you with the advice to be more careful next time.

So remember the power of this simple word “Sorry” of the English language. I am sure there are equivalent words in all the languages of the world but the word “Sorry” itself has been adapted by many languages and should be used very liberally.