So you suffer from a case of foot and mouth disease…. You should put your foot in your mouth before you speak. You think you’re the only one. Sorry to disappoint but one of the most graduated degrees is from Foot in Mouth University. But what is less common is the art of an authentic apology. Apologies are worth more than gold.
When an apology is coated in authentic self-reflection they go a long way towards building trust and respect. I mean honest to goodness self-reflection where you own your stuff and are honest about your mistake or contribution. These apologies promote reconciliation and are a proactive step forward in re-establishing the relationship. They are needed when you or others have clearly violated respect of an individual or a group.
Researchers have found that people who are wronged in a business transaction may be more likely to say they would reconcile if the offender offers a sincere apology – particularly if the offender takes personal blame for the misdeed.
Genuine apologies also deliver positive outcomes in lawsuits, according to Dr. Jennifer Robbennolt, a Professor of Law and Psychology at the University of Illinois. “Conventional wisdom has been to avoid apologies because they amount to an admission of guilt that can be damaging to defendants in court,” she said. “But the studies suggest apologies can actually play a positive role in settling legal cases.” Now this is good stuff.
I’m not talking about the apologies that some people hand out like pamphlets. We all know someone who is a serial apologiser. Or those that apologise as a way of avoiding conflict. I can hear my 12 year son now after he “taps” his sister hard on the back… “sorry sorry sorry sorry sorry”. Hey buddy… that’s not gunna cut it – we need to have a chat about what is right and wrong. I’m talking about genuine, heart felt, I really mean it ..‘sorrys’.
To prove I know what I’m talking about… if you’re still not sold. Just google it! The evidence will hit you right in the face! Just like an apology – you can’t ignore it.
So why do we find them so bl&*dy hard?
Apologies are a place that is uncomfortable for most. They make us vulnerable, people will see our imperfections or they may be used against you. If you admit where you blew it then that could be thrown back in your face later. Or worse still we may be rejected anyway, the receiver might not be ready to acknowledge or receive it and then where are we left? With serious egg on our face. It is this uncertainty that gives the apology such power and impact. Putting yourself out there and owning your stuff is a courageous place.
John Kador, author of Effective Apology, defines an apology as the “willingness to value the relationship more than the need to be right”. It can be excruciating to face ourselves and others when we have offended or hurt them. John says we are afraid to apologise because we don’t want to say to little or too much and make things worse. And for those of you who need to win the discussion and find the very thought of an apology enough to give you a hernia then consider that an apology is a good way to have the last word (she says tongue in cheek).
The perception of an apology has moved from a sign of weakness. Apology is now a great sign of leadership. Leaders model accountability, transparency and humility.
It is not cost free but it’s cheaper than what it reflects which is denial and movement away from trust and respect.
Just say sorry…. And mean it!
So what are the components of a rock star apology. There are three;
1. Show regret. I love the quote from Mignon McLaughlin; “The remorse is never retreat over consequence; it is regret over motive”
2. Take responsibility
3. Discuss a remedy
And watch those relationships improve and the ease of doing business or life just get easier.
I’m sorry if this was too long to read by the way