There are many reasons these days for people to apologize. But how do you say it and why? Leaders know. After reading this article, you will too.
There are many reasons why apologizing is completely the thing to do. If you are in a situation and wondering if apologizing is the correct action to take, consider the following.
Apology is a necessary step on the road to recovery.
Apologies help you and others heal. When people feel injured it is difficult for them to forgive and move forward. The greater the perceived hurt, the greater the difficulty in letting go. Hearing an apology from you expedites the healing process greatly. The bonus is that it helps you to let go too.
Now, here’s the interesting thing about being hurt: It’s a matter of perception. What one person perceives as hurt, another person doesn’t. You may not think that your actions are hurtful but if the recipient believes they are, it may be cause for apology.
Positions you as being emotionally intelligent.
Saying those two magic words, “I’m sorry”, not only help the injured party, it positions you as being perceptive, emotionally intelligent, and very aware of the impact your actions have on others. You present yourself as humble and human, and remember — people relate to people, not perfection. Acknowledging your human factor makes you relatable.
Leaders assume responsibility.
Part of being a leader is owning up to mistakes. Sometimes people are hesitant to apologize because they see it as an admission of guilt. In this litigious world, that belief is understandable and unfortunate. Still, I personally believe it’s worth the risk and it’s the right thing to do. If your actions or words result in hurt of some sort, step up and face the music. Acknowledge your role in the situation.
As a leader, when you apologize, you are modeling for others to follow your lead and also do so when appropriate. A workplace that encourages apologies is, by nature, one that assumes responsibility and shows it is alright to slip, fall, and mess up a bit because that is exactly what encourages innovation and discovery.
Perhaps the most important reason for apologizing is to maintain relationships. This plays out in the workplace in terms of ensuring productivity with team members, business with your clients, and trust with your superiors.
When to apologize
Do it quickly.
As soon as you realize your actions have had negative consequences, acknowledge your role or that of your organization to the parties affected. If you represent your organization to others, even if you personally didn’t commit or oversee the offending actions, you apologize on behalf of your organization.
Even if it’s not intended, apologize if it hurt.
Imagine yourself in a lineup somewhere. Inadvertently, you step back to look at something and, with no intention whatsoever, you step on the person’s toes behind you. What’s your normal reaction? You likely apologize exclaiming, “Oh gee, I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”. You assume responsibility, acknowledge what you did to inconvenience the other person, and you express regret for the outcome. In short, you show concern. Even though you never planned or wanted to mess up that person’s toe, you did. You apologize.
Remember this story next time you step on someone’s toes literally or figuratively.
Be authentic and sincere.
Say “I’m sorry”.
The power of those two words is irreplaceable. When you offend someone or hurt them in some way, saying, “It was an oversight on my part” isn’t the same as saying, “I’m sorry”. The first statement minimizes the degree of hurt you may have inflicted. The recipient may feel that you are discounting your role in the situation and not truly regretting or understanding the impact of your actions. The latter is heartfelt and expresses true remorse and comprehension of the pain or injury that resulted directly from your actions, whether intentional or not.
Consider when criminals express true remorse for their behaviour. The judge is generally more lenient, right? Apologies go a long way. Likewise, when you say, “I’m sorry”, others are more prone to cut you some slack and may lean into compassion instead of judgement toward you.
Also, avoid saying, “I’m sorry you feel that way”. That’s not acknowledging your role at all and accounting all the bad vibes to their overblown perception of what you did. Your apology is in measure with the degree of damage you contributed to and the responsibility you assume for that. If they hurt and you had a piece in causing that, instead tell them, “I’m sorry my actions have caused you such pain”. That’s saying their pain or inconvenience is real, not in their heads. You aren’t downplaying the impact of your actions (or inaction).
Keep it separate from an explanation.
When you get caught up explaining the details of why you behaved the way you did, it sounds like an excuse, not an apology. Of course, explain your behaviour. Just do so only after you’ve apologized and allowed time to let that apology sink in. Depending on circumstances, that may be in the same conversation or exchange, moments later as a codicil, or in a separate conversation completely.
Inappropriate behaviour resulting in hurt may be explained. It should never be excused.
When was the last time you said, “I’m sorry”, or received an apology? How did it make you feel? I’d love to hear your feedback. Feel free to post your response, comments, or questions below. My greatest pleasure is hearing from my clients and colleagues.
Want more help letting go and moving forward? Saying sorry is a step in the right direction.
Check out my book, “THE FINKELSTEIN FACTOR” where I talk about acknowledging the loss. Whether it’s your loss or someone else’s this is the first step to letting go and flipping a negative situation into a positive outcome.
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©2022 Marion Grobb Finkelstein (MarionSpeaks)
Marion Grobb Finkelstein
Keynote Speaker / Corporate Trainer / Author
Recipient of APEX “Award for Leadership in Service Innovation”
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