Apologies done right. (not like the Astros)
Last week the Houston Astros attempted to apologize for their cheating during the 2017 World Series. I use the word attempted because the apology consisted of vague statements of nothingness expressing little if no remorse for their deceitful actions.
So I thought I would post this week about apologies. Just about all of us at some point in time have done something to warrant an apology towards a co-worker. Whether we simply had a bad day and snapped, or we accidentally offended a colleague, it’s always a good idea to apologize for our actions. But as we learned from the Astros, a bad apology can be worse than no apology at all.
Here are a few simple steps to ensure your apology is well received.
Make it timely. If you’ve done something wrong, apologize, as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, chances are the other party is just stewing and waiting for it.
Let them know at the start of the conversation you are going to apologize. It will help put them in the right mindset. “Can we talk, I would really like to apologize to you.”
Show empathy and sincerity. This is where a lot of people get it wrong. “Sorry you were offended by what I said”, is an apology which makes it seem like the other person is really at fault. “I am sorry I offended you,” is taking personal responsibility.
Prepare your thoughts and convey to the other person you spent time thinking about the offense and understanding their perspective.
If relevant, explain what you learned. “I need to consider my words more carefully,” “I should really be more attentive about who I give credit to”.
If the offense was in public, for example, during a team meeting, don’t shy away from issuing a secondary apology during the next meeting.
NEVER rationalize your actions to the offended party as it only cheapens your apology.
Leave them some space at the end. Maybe they want to think it over. Maybe they need some time to clear their heads. Don’t assume that just because you apologized everything is ok now. They may need a moment to allow you back into their personal space again. Give it to them.
A truly heartfelt apology is one of the ultimate displays of humility and empathy. It shows how you care enough to consider the other person’s feelings and are willing to admit you screwed up.
The Astros cheated the competition out of a World Series title but displayed little if no empathy nor remorse for what they did. On top of that their lame attempt at an apology caused more backlash than no apology at all might have. If you’re going to apologize, be sure to get it right!