Do You Dare to Accept the Apology Challenge?

Your apologies suck. And your relationships are suffering as a result.

So listen.


We all make mistakes.

We all unintentionally hurt others because we are not all perfect. Therefore you will have to make a lot of apologies in your life.

A whole lot.

Apologies serve a many purposes. Obviously, they are often the first step in repairing the rifts that inevitably occur in our relationships. But, believe it or not, many of our relationships suffer because we make wimpy and ineffective apologies. We blurt out “Sorry! It wasn’t my fault!”  Or a terse “Oops, sorry ‘bout that. My bad.”  These types of apologies don’t do a whole lot to atone for the suffering; whether intentional or not, that the person experienced.

But, do you know what? When was the last time you received instruction on how to make a good apology? Most of us don’t receive any instruction in our lives on just how to make a real apology. I mean a good one, something that really works, that comes from the bottom of your heart. That goes to repair the damage we did.

So here comes your first lesson and challenge.

A good apology contains several critical elements:

1) The acknowledgment that you did something wrong.  Come on, own up to it, be accountable! There's should be no shame in making a mistake. It's only when we don't assume responsibility for something that we mess up.  And you should be responsible. I don’t know about you but by being accountable, I feel effective; even potent and capable. I can make stuff happen and can repair the damage I do by fixing it. There is empowerment; even joy in responsibility

Oh, and remember not to ruin it by making excuses or somehow blaming the other person. That’s wimpy.

Never ruin an apology with an excuse”. (Kimberly Johnson)

2) The idea that you hurt the other person somehow and that you regret that: This is true even if you did not intend to hurt the other person. And, hey, you are still a good person. Apologies help people to let others know that.

3) A promise that you will do your best not to repeat the mistake: Yes, you should really try not to be “that person” that continuously makes the same mistakes over and over only to apologize over and over, ad nauseum.

4) A willingness to make reparations, even financial ones: That's right, be prepared to put your money where your mouth is. If you ruin something that belongs to someone else, it is your obligation to replace it. Case closed.

And if the mistake is one of the more serious types, such as losing a lot of money at gambling, incidences of infidelity, substance abuse, physical abuse, etc., you will need to get some serious help, such as counseling with a professional. Be willing to invest yourself seriously--as well as your money--in making things right.

Oh, yeah. Gifts work too!

5) An expressed desire to be forgiven: If you made a mistake; especially a serious one, you need to be forgiven. Who needs to carry that guilt with them throughout their lives? Let’s leave the past in the past. We have enough worries in our lives. The hurt we cause others through our own behaviors can be fixed.

It’s a simple formula: Screw up. Apologize and ask for forgiveness. Forgive.

Finally, apologies show a person that they really matter to you and that you mean well by them. And that can go a long way in soothing hurt feelings.

Here are some other key ideas to remember:

1) You are a billionaire in apologies. You never run out. If the first apology doesn't serve its purpose, try again later in some other way. The way I look at it, I probably have a good ten attempts at apologizing before the person stops listening. So if I make a mistake in the first apology and I don't quite get it right, I have more chances. A lot more. That's because I'm a billionaire, get it?

2) Don't be afraid to "linger" with an apology; don't rush through it. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" doesn't quite cut it. In many ways that can sound like a teenager's "Whatever!" We could all take a bit of a lesson from the Japanese method of apology called Hansei. Boy, can they ever linger!

3) You should do at least one follow-up to an apology. Something like "Hey look, I just want you to know I really am sorry that I _____________. I hope you have forgiven me. I just want to reassure you that I know I screwed up and I'm going to really do my best not to let it happen again. No kidding!"

4) Most often we refuse to apologize because we feel weak or embarrassed, perhaps even ashamed. Okay, yeah, you messed up. But who doesn't? I like this statement: "Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts." (Nikki Giovanni)

I hope this helps. If I made an error here, I’m sorry. Hey, no kidding a I am really, really sorry! No kidding.

My next blog will be better.

So here's the challenge: make a promise to yourself that you will make these major changes in the way that you apologize. It might be uncomfortable at first, but watch are your relationships improve.

So do you accept that challenge? I dare you.

I double dog dare you! ;-)

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