3 Ways to Make Your Apology Count
By Deanna Utroske
Women are somewhat infamous for our tendency to apologize. Saying “sorry” is an easy enough habit to get into. But how often do we actually wrong someone and regret our words or actions enough to warrant an apology?
Let’s instead put our hard-earned communications skills to work and make each apology count:
1. Say ‘Thanks’
We can show gratitude to acknowledge that we may have imposed on colleagues and clients. In many situations there’s a chance to say “thanks” instead of “sorry.”
- for their ideas
- for being patient with you
- for waiting while you finished up a call
- for letting you join the meeting (after it started)
- for correcting your misunderstanding
- for reminding you of an approaching deadline
- for holding the elevator door
Saying thanks is a simple, positive way to recognize someone else’s efforts and allowances. No apology needed!
2. Solve The Problem
When we make a mistake or leave something wanting, we must identify it and correct it.
After saying “thanks,” propose a solution or some possible alternatives. And, take ownership of the recovery project. Assign tasks you can reasonably accomplish to yourself. Then ask for feedback on your plan.
Common wisdom now tells us to go beyond our comfort zone and count failures as learning experiences and to celebrate our recovery from those failures as achievements. Similarly, nearly every possible apology is an opportunity to recover from a failure.
3. Be Genuine
By apologizing seldom and sincerely, our remorse is more meaningful—it counts! The less often we say “sorry,” the more consequential it is when we do. Too frequent apologies can add up to something like the Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf fable: people stop believing that we’re sorry (or worse, they stop listening altogether).
When we are wrong and someone has been terribly inconvenienced or damaged, then an apology is in order. And, choosing the right words, specific to the situation matters. Be empathetic. When apologizing use words that reflect the other person’s situation with less focus on your feelings of regret. Then, of course offer to solve the problem.
(This article was originally published Mar 20, 2018.)