The Power Of An Authentic Apology by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

Everyone has made a mistake that caused someone to feel bad. Sometimes it is an unkind comment in a heated conversation or when we are stressed or frustrated, or sometimes it is a mistake we make that creates a problem for our clients, customers, family member, or friend.

In some cases, particularly in sales, the problem that occurred may not have been our issue. Perhaps the fulfillment team made a mistake on the order, or the shipping company sent the order to the wrong business. Regardless of who made a mistake, the customer sees the issue as a breach of the promise you made as the sales representative.

As a professional or as a person interacting with others, finding a way to address these mistakes through an apology is the best way to start rebuilding the relationship. An authentic apology is not just the words “I’m sorry” but a  true statement that comes from the desire to repair the damage. It is not necessarily an admission of your personal guilt but rather a recognition of the damage done and your desire to acknowledge that damage.

How to Apologize  

There are a few elements that are involved in a heartfelt and authentic apology. The most significant of these is to be specific and acknowledge your actions and the damage caused. It is critical to avoid making excuses or somehow blaming the other person. In addition, the apology should express remorse and express a desire to make amends in some form.

An example of a complete and authentic apology would be:

I’m sorry for forgetting our plans to meet for lunch and discuss the project. I know this was important to you, and I should have entered it into my calendar to ensure I was there. I will be sure to do this in the future, but for right now, what can I do to make this right?

This is very different from wording an ineffective apology that might sound like:

I am sorry I missed our lunch, but I have a lot of things to do and appointments throughout the day. If you realized I wasn’t coming, why didn’t you call or text me a reminder?

The first apology shows you are taking responsibility and recognizing the inconvenience to the other person. It also provides the opportunity to discuss how to correct the issue and reconnect with the person. The second “apology” excuses your bad behavior and then blames the other person for the problem.

Practicing apologies is not always easy, particularly if you are apologizing for something that may not be in your direct control. However, learning the art of authentic apology is essential to maintaining personal and professional relationships.