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Jun
5
Alex Somos

Learn how to say sorry the right way: click here to learn about Juice's Power of Conversation training program!

Sometimes, sorry seems to be the hardest word—at least, to the apologizer.

But what about the recipient of the apology?

Sometimes, in our haste to get it off our chests quickly, our apologies can actually make things worse—particularly if they are perceived as simply paying lip service.

In other words, saying “sorry” is oftentimes not enough to resolve things.

How to say sorry—properly

There is an art to the apology.

Let’s say you spoke out against a colleague’s idea at a meeting. You know they are hurt and disappointed that you didn’t support them.You’re not doing them any favours by walking up to your colleague afterwards to simply say “I’m sorry.”

Why? Because you probably don’t know the extent to which they are hurt: you’re lacking context of the situation.

As a result, your simple apology will likely come off as an empty, thoughtless “token sorry.”

Instead, consider doing the following:

  1. Approach the person. Ask them if they can talk with you about what happened at the meeting. The objective is to get permission to discuss it.
     
  2. State the issue. Acknowledge the facts of what you did.
     
  3. Ask the person their thoughts. By simply saying “I’d like to know where that landed for you,” you are giving that person the chance to create context and meaning for you. Your colleague probably has a back story you weren’t away of. For example, perhaps they’ve been working on that idea for three years—on their own time. Maybe they’ve reviewed dozens of peer papers in researching the idea. Perhaps they’ve compiled a list of support materials.
     
  4. Apologize. Now that you understand the context of your colleague’s effort and hard work, you can apologize appropriately for the impact. You still may not change your mind about your colleague’s idea—but by creating a space for conversation around what your “offense” meant to them, you can walk away, feeling like you have appropriately apologized.

Admit your mistake, and clean up quickly

Your apology loses impact with every passing second that you put it off.

Not only that: holding off on making an apology can add to the damage already felt by the person you offended.

This can lead to the creation of “camps” within any work environment—significantly decreasing employee engagement and positive organizational energy amongst colleagues.

So don’t let it fester or sit.

When you know an apology is necessary, do it quickly—and do it well.

Employee behaviour is the result of 5 Driving Needs. Learn how to identify your employees' emotional needs: click here for a FREE download of The Engagement Paradox white paper! 

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