The Art of the Apologyby Judith Bowman on 02/08/17
We are immersed in the most competitive business climate in history imposing unprecedented pressures at all levels that simultaneously prime us for personal altercations, business scuffles and tussles which ultimately require the proverbial … dreaded apology.
“Sorry seems to be the hardest word.” (Elton John) … Ask Donald Trump, Bill AND Hillary Clinton, Brian Williams, Lance Armstrong, Paula Dean, and Bill Cosby, to name a few.
We are not talking about apologizing for forgetting someone’s name, missing an appointment or forgetting to silence your cell phone. These thoughtless, commonplace situations require a quick apology to clear the air and get back on track. Period.
Whereas if you misappropriate corporate funds, engage in unethical or illegal activity, commit a personal slight, engage in sexual misconduct or make a denigrating remark about someone’s ethnicity, these more egregious matters evoke high emotions and call for a more robust response and strategy.
“Love means never having to say I’m sorry,” originally expressed by Jennifer Cavalieri in Love Story may have been so in Hollywood years ago however, not so in real life today, especially in business.
During our lifetime we have and will inevitably say or do something to hurt others we will later regret which may affect our reputation, our firm’s reputation and brand. One of the most difficult things for many is to admit we made a mistake and yes, apologize. Saying you’re sorry is a way to regain respect however ironically, pride, ego, fear or simply showing weakness are stumbling blocks that should never be excuses. It takes a very strong person to admit they were wrong.
Apology defined is a written or spoken expression of one's regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another. The very act of apologizing is humbling and about refinement of character. Apologizing is a show of respect and good manners. Apologizing is cleansing and the right thing to do. Apologies are almost universally respected.
There is a right and wrong way to apologize. Saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way” suggests they are the one with the problem. The right way is to accept responsibility for your actions and express your regret for the damage done. People are by nature forgiving. When they believe you are sincere, you will most likely be forgiven; an insincere apology will likely exacerbate the situation.
The Perfect Apology:
- Apologize face-to-face … the sooner the better. Show remorse, humility; own it.
- Ask forgiveness. State what you will do going forward.
- Write a personal note; email, text or even a phone call is not as effective.
- Allow time to heal and regain their trust.
- Say, “I’m sorry I made you feel that way because of my words/behavior.”
Sincerity is absolutely essential, regardless of how egregious the transgression. A sincere apology goes a long way toward repairing damage, healing and restoring your own reputation/brand. Moreover, if you truly possess and thereby genuinely convey sincere remorse, this will come across and others will respect you - for the admission, for trying to right the wrong and coming forward with the shield of truth.