Sorry seems to be the hardest word
I don’t want to be a wet blanket. But let’s face facts, we get into endless situations at work where an apology is needed to rectify things. Although we have been taught from young how to apologise, the sad thing is some of us tend to do it the wrong way and make things worse.
When expressed the right way, an apology does not just lead to forgiveness, but it may also repair the relationship and lead to a new and stronger footing. John Kador, author of Effective Apology guides you with ten dos and don’ts for making the right apology.
Don’t include ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’
Adding the word “if”, or any other conditioner modifier to an apology, makes it a non-apology. It always reduces the effectiveness by making the offense conditional. The word “but” is a way for us to deflect some of the responsibility from ourselves.
Don’t be passive, be active
The passive voice is another way of avoiding responsibility. You can tell if an apology is in the passive voice by looking for the verb in the apology. If the verb does not come out, it is likely you are in the passive voice as hiding the action is usually what the passive voice is designed to do.
Passive: I’m sorry you were hit.
Active: I’m sorry I hit you.
Apology is always serious, and the more you treat it that way, the more effective it will be. While humour can help refuse a tense situation, it is better to let the apology itself do the defusing.
Adding “I know how you feel” into an apology gives the victim the impression that you take him or her for granted. It is much better to go into dialogue with an open, eager-to-learn attitude. Instead of pretending to know, plead arrogance, and instead of assuming, ask.
Don’t ask “What can I do to make this right?”
Apologies will be more effective if it is accompanied by a concrete offer of restitution, where the victim needs to hear what you consider to be an appropriate offer. Making an apology is not a negotiation, and in an apology you need to be fair and even generous without being asked.
In any kind of conversation, many of us stop listening because we are busy formulating our response. Hence, it is beneficial before the conversation to inform the victim that you are about to apologise, and after which he or she can feel free to speak.
I need to apologise to you. This is not easy for me, so can I ask that you hear me out and then I’ll listen to what you have to say?
Begin the apology with “I”
Starting an apology with “I” means an individual is taking personal responsibility. Starting it with “you” tends to make people defensive, especially if they are nervous.
Use the recipient’s name
Using the person’s name reinforces the entire mission of the apology, which is to repair the relationship.
We often do a good job apologising, but we keep talking and end up diluting the apology with excuses. It is best to say you’re sorry, stop, and listen.
The person you’re apologising to may not see things your way, but it is crucial to listen and not argue. An apology is not a place for argument or for attempting to change someone’s point of view