How Do You Apologize?

Have you ever felt that someone owed you an apology, but when they told you they were sorry, you didn’t feel any resolution at all?

I’m thinking about the importance of a sincere and thorough apology because of something that happened to me this morning. I contacted our house cleaner about the fact that her crew had overlooked several things and had also caused some damage to our house. Instead of taking responsibility for the situation, she responded with a reason/excuse about why things happened as they did. I know her intention was for me to understand why she couldn’t do her usual good job, but all it did was annoy me and make me feel unheard.

What I wanted her to do was:

Say “I’m sorry”. (NOT, “I’m sorry, but…….”)

Restate my concerns and feelings, and acknowledge that her crew had let me down. This would verify for me that we were clear on what had happened, and that she agreed I had a right to be annoyed.

Take full responsibility and recognize her role in the situation, without excuses, defense or explanation.

Let me know what steps she will take in the future to insure that it doesn’t happen again. 

Ask what she can do to make it right.

Then insure that you do that and more, to regain trust.

We all have times in our professional and personal lives when things don’t go as planned, and another person, client/customer, friend or family member may feel wronged, let down, or like they received less than perfect service from you or your staff.

When this happens it’s important to know how to apologize. A sincere, heartfelt apology can make the difference between maintaining or losing a good relationship.

A good apology requires multiple steps:

Say, “I’m sorry” and be explicit about the situation

Acknowledge the hurt or damage caused (including feelings of the injured party)

Take responsibility for the situation, “It was my/our fault”

Recognize your role in the event

Insure that it won’t happen again

Ask “How can I make it right?”

Often an apology will contain just a couple of these steps, which leaves the wronged person feeling even more violated. Be sure to include all the steps.

If my house cleaner had done these things, I would feel heard and reassured that I won’t have to deal with this situation again. But, because she failed to apologize thoroughly, I’m feeling unclear about what my future with this company holds, and am thinking of finding another cleaner.

So, in your business and personal life, remember that the apology is always about the wounded party and his/her feelings and experience. Never about you.

It’s something to think about.

Please comment so others can benefit from your wisdom and experience. 

For FREE worksheets on ways to empower yourself, see the Resources Page on our Inside Jobs Coach website. 

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Posted in Inside Jobs Blog


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