Guest Post by Kelly Gregorio
Society has embedded it in our brains: fight to be right, never be wrong.
Whether it is in an effort to save face or to avoid embarrassment or feeling weak, these negative, dead-end perceptions have got us pointlessly digging our nails into quicksand.
Image: Freshcollective via Google, CC 3.0
It takes an evolved person to admit when they are wrong. However, considering the benefits of gained respect, resolved conflicts, and the promise of growth, this evolution points to a smarter, more controlled human being. Luckily, with a little practice we all can tap into our ability to apologize like a boss, no power suit required.
Regardless of the situation or the truth that you hold in your heart, when an absent apology is holding you back from bigger and better things, it’s no longer worth it. Your first (and most difficult) step is to…
Admit that you were wrong.
Now for those of you that are saying, “Well, what about instances in which I’m the one who’s right?” Don’t worry, there is an answer for you too. Regardless of facts, proof, or common sense, your goal here is to move on, so find some fault, any fault, which you can own up to.
For example, “I was wrong to let this carry on for so long.” Keep in mind that it takes two to tango, so chances are, regardless of who made the first mistake, there is some misstep you can admit to making along the way.
Lay your cards out on the table.
This is perhaps the trickiest part of the process because “explaining” can tornado you back into rehashing the same destructive issues all over again. Take a big gulp here; yup, that’s your pride going back inside right where it belongs.
Your explanations should focus on one thing and one thing only: your behavior. Do not mention the other person’s faults that equally contributed to your feud. This will only make your counterpoint put their guard further up until you’re right back at where you started.
Instead, explain your behavior. For example:
“I did X as a response to my feeling Y. I know that was not your intention to make me feel like Z, but unfortunately at the time that is how I perceived things.”
Keep your goal of rebuilding this relationship at the forefront of your thoughts, guiding your calm reactions and cool acknowledgments.
OK, you’ve done the dirty work. You’ve admitted to being wrong and offered an explanation for your behavior. Now it’s time to suggest peace between you and your counterpoint with three of the most powerful words in the universe:
“I am sorry.”
Your efforts up to this point will be fruitless if you leave out that magical phrase. Be sure not to exercise creative license. Saying, “I am sorry that you got so upset by this,” is not the same thing; in fact, it’s infuriating to hear. Remember you’re apologizing like a boss here. Deliver your sorry with a cool tone and a genuine look of remorse.
The last and final step is to make an effort to ensure that this does not happen again. Let your ears take the wheel and listen up after asking, “What can I do to make things better from this point on?” It takes a class act to carry themselves in this manner, but with this final step in place, you’ll begin to see your resolution on the horizon.
Take whatever they suggest to heart, and understand what will be necessary (on your part) for a solid future. It’s important to note that regardless of how the other person reacts,
You have the power to command the conversation.
If you keep a cool head and care only about resolving and moving on, then chances are you will. Own your actions, and keep in mind that what happened in the past in no way has to dictate your future. After all, it’s just another day in the life of a humble, happy boss.
What other tips do you have for delivering a flawless apology?
Kelly Gregorio writes about topics that affect small businesses and entrepreneurs while working at Advantage Capital Funds, a merchant cash advance provider. You can connect with her through the comments section on her daily business blog.
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Great points Rob, it’s so true – there is no point in delivering an apology that you don’t believe in. Hopefully the people who read this article will be coming from a genuine place, and perhaps are searching for a way to express real remorse. All too often we let pride and bruised egos stand in the way of moving forward…and by default we are holding ourselves back from limitless possibilities/partnerships/interactions. By finding (even a sliver) of our own fault and truly owning it, opposing sides can lower their guard and allow you two to mutually move on…hopefully together. Thanks for reading!
Yes, definitely use the words “I’m sorry” — as opposed to “We regret” or “We’d like to apologize,” etc. And don’t “blame the victim” for the offense you caused.
I would add: explain why it happened without making excuses, take corrective action, announce steps for preventing the issue from occurring again and, most of all, really mean it. People will see right through a grudging or insincere apology, so you have to show true remorse for the harm you caused.