You’ve been there, I’m sure. You make a sharp remark and wish you hadn’t. You misinterpret what somebody said and respond more harshly than you should have. You comment unfavorably on a person’s talent or taste…only to discover you’re talking to their best friend.
There are all kinds of ways to step in it.
And it’s not always about something we said. Maybe you blew an appointment; you had the wrong day in your calendar. You finished a project and realized it wasn’t your best work. You overcommitted yourself and missed a deadline.
It happens. All of it. So the question is: what do we do about it?
My friend Brian King wrote a blog about “those moments you may say or do hurtful things that are out of alignment with your personal standards.” The solution? “You apologize because your words or actions were not the best you could do.
I thought about Brian’s piece this week; after a fair amount of agida, it was clear that I had to do some apologizing. Nothing fancy. Just your basic, straightforward, “I’m sorry.”
A lot of people resist making amends. They think talking about it will make things worse. Or they’re too embarrassed to bring it up. Maybe they’re digging in their heels and justifying whatever they shouldn’t have said or done in the first place. Those people could learn a lot from my panel of experts.
“Own the wrongdoing and commit to doing better,” says Leni Kass of RealTime Communications, Inc. “From my perspective, it’s rarely about the mistake, and more often about what someone does after the mistake. After all, we’re all human and we all make mistakes. It’s how someone handles the aftermath that really speaks to who they are and their character.”
Engaging Speakers CEO Gail Brown is all for mending fences and building bridges.
Steve Beck is a Legal Shield director. “Always apologize, DON’T try to lay any of the blame on anyone/anything else (even if someone else is partially at fault) and most important, propose an action that will make it right. Don’t make your client have to ask for a resolution.”
Business consultant Trisha Doho gets right to the point. “You say, I’m sorry, I made a mistake. Let me make it right.”
“Apologize for the error with a handwritten note,” says proof reader Carol DeMartini Smith.
Retail professional Tess Iandola’s a bit of a contrarian. “I check my records and make sure there WAS an error. I don’t over-apologize, because then trust is completely lost. In retail, people sometimes like to take advantage in hopes of getting something free (which is low-class of them, and not something I like to do). Then I’d make it right in some way, and MOVE ON. Life is short. And women in particular are waaaaaay too apologetic.”
Tess has a point, doesn’t she, about women who say “Sorry” at the drop of a hat?
And then there are creative approaches to apologizing.
Organist Nancy Granert advises, “Fess up. Apologize. Nosh. Move on.” Radio news anchor Susan Leigh Taylor’s on the same wavelength: “Say you’re sorry and offer carbohydrates.”
Jeannie Pitt Johnson advocates flowers. And Connie Franz recommends a foot rub!
The truth is, even a serious misstep can wind up having a positive effect if we handle it well. At Point A to Point B Transitions, Catherine Morgan says, “I worked on a help desk doing technology support for irate traders. The one thing I learned is to apologize first. I found that if I let them rant, they would eventually cool down and I could apologize and try to fix it. I take this same approach with clients now. Often, I can turn an annoyed client into a great referral source!”
You may have some experience with this making amends thing. Post a comment to share it! What did you do to say, “I’m Sorry?” And how well did it work?