The Art of Apologizing

As humans working together, no matter how hard we try, we will inadvetently end up doing something that will upset someone else, offend them or otherwise interfere with their work. That’s when an apology is in order.

The problem is, most people do a really lousy job at apologizing and often create more damage than good.

Here are some guidelines for apologizing successfully:

  • Be specific. Say exactly what it is that you are apologizing for. “I’m sorry for any trouble my actions may have caused” isn’t good enough. Instead say: “I’m sorry that my delay in submitting the data to you caused you to miss the client’s deadline.”
  • Provide a short explanation. Be concise and specific about the events and thought processes that led you to the action for which you are now apologizing.
  • Avoid excuses. Tell it like it is and don’t make false excuses. You’ll gain more respect and build trust.
  • Show your vulnerability, show your inner power. Make sure that you demonstrate both these qualities as you apologize.
  • Express regret. Use specific words such as sorry, apologize, regret. People want to hear that.
  • Suggest corrective action. If corrective action is required, let them know what you’re planning to do, by when and the reasoning behind the action you plan to take. Then check whether this plan makes sense from their perspective.
  • Let them talk. Allow them to talk, earlier rather than later in the process. Let them tell you how they feel about what happened and what will make it better.
  • Be prepared to hear things you may not want to hear. The other person may give you feedback about your own behaviour that you may not have been aware of, or that may be difficult to hear. Remain open!

Is there someone to whom you own an apology? Don’t wait, go out there and do it!

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