You probably have a love/hate relationship with apologies. You love it when others apologize to you. But you find it extremely difficult to apologize to others. An apology is ownership. It’s admitting that you made a mistake.
I follow the work of Marshall Goldsmith, who is the premiere executive coach of executive coaches who says, “I regard apologizing as the most magical, healing, restorative gesture human beings can make. It is the centerpiece of my work with executives who want to do better.”
Apologizing. Nothing more powerful and nothing that is often harder to do, especially for men. Incidentally, this is one area where gender differences are significant.
My husband and I have a running joke. Over the 25 years we’ve been married, I can count on my fingers how many times he’s apologized. If you ask him why this is so, he’ll likely say that’s because there have been few instances where an apology was needed.
Let’s say we may have a difference of opinion on this.
Goldsmith states, “The best thing about apologizing is that it forces everyone to let go of the past. In effect, you are saying; I can’t change the past. All I can say is I’m sorry for what I did wrong. I’m sorry it hurt you. There’s no excuse for it, and I will try to do better in the future. I would like your ideas on how I can improve.”
This kind of statement is hard for even the most cold-hearted people to resist. And when you say this to your staff or coworkers, it can dramatically change how they feel about you and themselves.
Crafting Your Sorry Speech
In my coaching practice, I may suggest a coaching client apologize for some of their past behaviors that have negatively impacted their team members. Most think it’s a good idea, yet they don’t do it. When asked why, they usually say, “I don’t know what to say,” or “I don’t have time to craft an apology.”
What’s really going on here is they are uncomfortable admitting they were wrong, ceding control, or losing the battle. They fail to understand that when you say, “I’m sorry,” you turn people into your allies, as now you’re seen as someone who is human, as we all make mistakes.
A genuine apology goes a long way in restoring trust. The key is to mean what you say. Don’t defend your actions or blame others. Just own it and apologize.
You don’t need to write a long speech.
Say, “I’m sorry. I’ll try to do better in the future.”
Then make a heartfelt effort to actually do better in the future.