One of the things that I do at the university is teaching courses to instructors on a variety of aspects of teaching. Frequently they will apologize for needing to miss a class or for not getting an assignment done one time (there are no grades, but still assignments) or for needing some extra help with something. They usually apologize for whichever of these they are explaining to me and I always reply, “it’s okay, I just ask that you offer the same flexibility/support/understanding for your students.” I don’t know how many follow through, but they tell me they will.
I think a lot of times instructors forget that students are facing many of the same challenges that they are. They lack time to get everything done. They have family commitments. They get sick. They need extra help. They work one or more jobs while trying to get everything else done. Of course, students often forget that instructors face many of these challenges as well.
It’s not just instructors and students, however.
You go into a restaurant and order something, but the server gets part of it wrong. They’re apologetic, but you still get annoyed, not knowing if a) it is their fault or someone in the kitchen or b) what they have going on in their life right now that could be distracting them. Honestly, if they’re not driving, flying a plane, or operating on you then it really shouldn’t be that big a deal (a mistake involving an ingredient that you’ve indicated you’re allergic to is another matter).
We often forget that those around us have a lot going on. We get angry that they’ve made a mistake, but when we make one we want understanding. When someone else is late because something came up, we get annoyed, but when it’s us we can’t understand why they’re upset. Are they often late and unapologetic? Are you?
I think we often have higher standards for others, particularly those who we see as being “less” than us, which should be a topic for another post or podcast episode. These might be students, our employees, service workers, strangers, etc.
If you’re late, be apologetic, but also understand when someone else does it. If you make a mistake, apologize, learn from it, and offer the same to another.
Featured image courtesy of Images Alight under a CC-BY license