Recently, I enjoyed a week with some of my best friends—three couples who’ve been close friends for years, have much in common, and love just hanging out and spending time together. One morning we reserved a pickleball court and challenged ourselves to 2 hours of non-stop friendly competition. With six people and only one court, we played to a score of 6 and then rotated a new person in while the other two practiced on a nearby empty court. One of the couples plays pickleball weekly while the rest of us play sporadically at best, and our scores certainly reflected it.
I happened to be in the latter segment, and when it was my time to partner with my more-accomplished friend, I found myself constantly apologizing for making a mistake, missing a shot, or botching a serve. After several “I’m sorry’s,” she stopped the game and said, “When we play at home with our group, we have a ‘no apology’ rule. As long as someone is trying, we only serve up support, and no one is allowed to apologize for making a mistake because at some point everyone is bound to make one as they continue to improve.”
It was great advice and sounded so simple, but it was actually a lot harder than you might imagine for me to stop myself from apologizing to my partner and/or beating myself up verbally. But once I made the shift, it was most definitely a more enjoyable game for all of us. And I found that my confidence was lifted as I allowed mistakes to become part of playing and improving the game.
It made me wonder: What if we had a “no apology” rule in our business or practice? As long as people were trying their best to improve and working hard at upping their game, we would allow for mistakes and disallow constant self-deprecating talk. Of course, sincere and earnest apologies have their place and can be used to build trust and communicate commitment and love. But constant, ongoing apologies become annoying and can actually cause those around us to become numb to their original intent.
This week, consider the idea of normalizing mistakes made in the process of growth and change. When we’re in growth mode, we are all bound to make mistakes. Nurturing an environment of support seems like a much better foundation for continual improvement.
I didn’t win our little friendly tournament, but I sure felt better about myself and my improving pickleball game when I stopped the stream of constant apologies and instead accepted the support and love of my friends.
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
~ Winston Churchill