It was in the news the other day, Cindy McCain (wife of deceased senator John McCain) apologizes for wrongly accusing a woman of child trafficking. She decided to say something because the woman’s child was of a different ethnicity than her and they were traveling through the airport. She was wrong, and apologized for the distress she put the woman under.
I am conflicted. It is really difficult to make a 100% judgment in a split second. When we are talking about child trafficking—which is a very big, yet somewhat silent, problem—every nanosecond counts. Many factors come in to play—different race, behavior of the child, location of the event, etc. The woman was in the airport and while nothing was wrong, if McCain felt even the smallest inkling that something was off it was good she said something.
There are two ways this situation could have played out. There is the best case scenario where she said something and was wrong. She may have offended the woman but at least we know nothing was happening. Or, she could have not said anything out of fear of offending the woman and the child could have really been trafficked.
Better safe than sorry
Several years ago I made an observation an airport that I thought may have been child trafficking. I chose to be quiet about it out of fear of offending another. I still think about that child and regret that I did not say anything. What if it was a situation where the child needed my help? If I see the same today, I don’t mind risking offending someone. If there is any chance that I could be helping to prevent a child from being trafficked then it is worth offending another.
Follow your gut in these situations. So what if you are wrong, at least you know. We need to be the eyes and ears out there. Too many times things happen because we turn a blind eye, because we are fearful of making mistakes.
Sometimes it happens. We are viewed as a “bitch” to others because we are busy or anxious and trying to get things done quickly or efficiently. Or, we are standing up for ourselves or someone else. But, what do you say? How do you handle being called a “bitch”?
That word can come off as hurtful. First of all, there is no need to “take it as a compliment.” After all, it is not a very nice word. There is also no need to go the high road, or the low road, with the person. You don’t need to ignore it and you don’t need to feel bad about yourself for being called such a thing.
There are two key ways to tackle the situation:
1.)React in a funny/snarky tone— you could say “I get bonus points for that, right?” Then go back to what you were talking about and blow it off. Don’t take it personally. Don’t dwell on it. It is just a waste of your energy.
2.)Be a leader in the situation— if you are standing up for yourself or another, or a cause that is near and dear to your heart, you could say “we are here because we care about xyz and name calling doesn’t solve the problem.”
It is all about setting a boundary but maintaining morale. By reacting in a funny tone you are showing the other person that you are not going to let their name calling get you down. By being a leader you are telling them that your actions have a purpose and name calling is pointless. Both reactions set a boundary with the other person that their words are not going to go any deeper than just words. They aren’t accomplishing anything by saying those things.
It is unfair that women who stand firm and are strong in their beliefs can come off as “bitchy” when in reality they are just passionate. Understand that if you are subjected to such name-calling that it is because you are a strong, passionate person, and that is something to be proud of.
So, here you are. You have done something that has hurt another. You feel horrible. You just want to fix things. Make everything all better. What should you say? What can you say?
First of all, talk. Talk to the person. Communication is key. You can’t run away from your mistakes. Tell them you are sorry. Be genuine. Don’t back up your “I’m sorry” with an excuse. You hurt someone. Take ownership. Ask them how they feel? Ask them what you can say to make things better. Listen to what they have to say. Look them in the eyes. Make sure you are in a quiet, uninterrupted space. Ask them, explain to them how you can/will, change your actions in the future. This will help to open the door to how things might be repaired, if they are able.
So often we apologize and then immediately jump into defending ourselves. We are trying to justify our actions and make ourselves feel better, but what is that saying to the other person? By justifying our actions we are saying we had a right to hurt this person. Of course, you want to protect yourself, but you still hurt another and you should take ownership of that mistake. Acknowledge you were wrong. No one is perfect. We all do things we wish we could take back. Look at how you have wronged another and grow. Learn. Really, truly apologize.
Depending on how you hurt this person, and who the person is, repairing this relationship might be easy or impossible. But, regardless, of the end game. The best thing you can do to show another that they are valued and didn’t deserve what you did to them is to buck up and admit you were not right. End the excuses.