Sometimes I wish I didn’t have real-life examples of how I make mistakes, but my mishaps make good fodder for this column. Last harvest I was the combine driver who backed into the fuel truck while I was unloading my auger for cleanout to move to the next field. I have a bad habit of many accidents while backing up, so I should have checked my mirrors. The damage was a bent hydraulic shaft over the straw choppers, which was fixed with a $400 part, and no downtime, thankfully.
I told my husband that I was sorry for the mistake, and I thanked my son for quickly tracking down the part. Our employee also now understands the importance of not parking vehicles behind me.
Harvest this year is going to be extra fun because we all feel behind before we start due to the late-season crops. I have already started praying for no frost until November! I’d like to share some practical ways to make things right that I learned from Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas this summer in their fabulous book called When Sorry Isn’t Enough. Chapman is also the author of The Five Love Languages, so you may be familiar with his practical approach.
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There are five ways to say sorry:
- “I’m sorry.” You express regret. I was quick to do this after I heard the thud of hitting the truck. I also expressed regret to the semi-driver who grazed me as I was backing my SUV out of my garage onto my lane, rushing to get to the post office. I now always look down the lane before cranking out of the driveway! Sometimes expressing regret is all it takes to make restitution with the person you have offended, but recall the young kids who you’ve asked to say “sorry” and it comes out quickly from their little mouths, but with the wrong tone of voice, and no further change of behavior. Not a good thing.
- “I was wrong.” Those folks who can accept responsibility for their hurtful actions get more traction with spouses who expect more that a quick sorry. This means that you accept the fact that you made a mistake and own up to it. I was not going to sneak around the next field with a dented shaft. Honesty is always the best policy in my books. Someone has torn a piece of sheet metal out of our shed, but we never have found anyone to own up to the mistake. Damage is done, but no one accepts responsibility. The hole is still not repaired!
- “How can I make it right?” Making restitution. When I backed Wes’s pickup into a car parked in my blind spot with the pickup hitch making a perfectly square hole in the car’s front bumper, I was angry that the driver had not used his horn to stop me! I had to make it right with a $700 cheque to pay for a new car bumper, and I no longer drive the truck in town. Besides an apology, some people want to know what is going to change in the future with your actions so that you can make things right. In harvest season when stress is high, you really need to focus on a positive attitude to catch people doing things right, so that you can build up the emotional bank account of all the harvesters. Be willing to take some difficult feedback if you are cutting too high, or the meals need to be more timely to the field. Don’t take things personally, but seek out the ways other folks would like to be appreciated. Watch the tone of your voice on the FM radios. Long hours, dusty, itchy backs, and poor yields make people cranky if you are not careful to check your attitude. Just making fresh hot coffee for my son and our employees “makes lots of things right” during busy field times.
- “I want to change.” Genuinely repenting. In harvest season you have habits around how you like to open up a field and the direction of the swaths. Sometimes getting folks to adopt a new way of doing things is stressful, until they can see the benefit. The swather driver needs to have some compassion for the grain cart guy or trucker as to the pattern created by the swaths. Are you open to suggestion to change your ways? Make a mind shift to be able to ask, “Is there something you would like me to do differently?”
- “Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?” Requesting forgiveness takes courage, but the result is that you will feel better and lighter when you are forgiven. I appreciate a spouse who doesn’t yell or swear at me when I cause damage with backing up. He forgives me and we move on. Chapman says that “for those with a controlling personality, asking forgiveness is out of their comfort zone emotionally. To successfully learn to speak the apology language of requesting forgiveness or, for that matter, any of the apology languages, an extremely controlling individual will likely require the help of a counsellor or friend who is willing to be honest with him or her” (page 156).
So now you are primed for harvest, getting machines ready, and your ability to apologize in the right way. Here are Chapman’s tips of what not to say when apologizing:
- Haven’t you gotten over that yet?
- Why do you always…?
- What’s the big deal?
- Give me a break.
- You just need to get over it.
- You sound like your mother.
Try this instead:
- I did it, and I have no excuse.
- Can you ever forgive me?
- I realize that talk is cheap. I know that I need to show you how I will change.
- I will try to make this up to you by…
- You have every right to be upset.
I wish you all a very safe and successful harvest. In the sunny southwest of Manitoba we have crops that are great, and in the terms of a teenager… some that suck! Take care of everyone on your team, and yourself with good sleep, great food, and gracious attitudes. I will do my best this year not to back into anything!