You Can Negotiate Anything, Anywhere, Anytime

Friday, November 17, 2017

How to Apologize Like a Pro Especially during the Holidays

How to Apologize Like a Pro

The third revised and updated edition of my book How to Negotiate Like a Pro, How to Resolve Anything, Anytime, Anywhere was recently published.  I have included a section in How to Apologize Like a Pro that is relevant during the holidays. I picked How to Apologize Like a Pro for three reasons. 
  1. There is a lot of bad behavior in the recent news. When making an apology, some deny their behavior;  some explain their behavior; and some try to apologize but often make things even worse. 
  2. It’s the holiday season. If you are estranged from a relative or friend, maybe this is the year you will  attempt to reconcile. Consider that your first move may be rejected but at least you know you made the effort. 
  3. We are not getting any younger. As we get older we may regret things we said or did in the past and want to  make amends before it is too late. 
  4.  What is an apology? A good apology is when one party accepts blame and responsibility for one’s actions and shows some kind of remorse or regret. Sometimes a party only wants an apology in order to resolve a dispute. It sounds like an easy way to settle a situation since no money is involved. However, that is usually not the case. An apology is in the realm of feelings and principles and some people see an apology as a sign of weakness.  Why is an apology so important to some people? It is a way to get their respect, dignity and reputation back. An apology can be very satisfying especially if the other side feels that he or she has been vindicated. 
Here are tips for a good apology:

1. The apology must be heartfelt and not be given begrudgingly. 
If it is not sincere, the apology will make the situation worse. If a person cannot give a sincere apology, it is not worth the effort.

2. An apology cannot be sarcastic. 
A sarcastic apology defeats the whole purpose of an apology; this is not a time to be snarky or flippant. An apology must be sincere.

3. You cannot add a “but” to the apology.
You can’t say, “ I am sorry, but it was really your fault.” That isn’t an apology. I once had a serious argument with a family member; the next morning she purportedly called to make an apology, but then she added all the things I did wrong to the end of the apology.  She should have just said “I am sorry.”

4. A good apology accepts blame.
As stated in Rule 3 above, people love being told, “you are absolutely right.” An apology that accepts blame is more likely to be accepted. “I really goofed on this. I am sorry and will try to make it up to you.” 

5. Keep it simple.
It is enough to say “I am sorry.” or “I apologize.” The more you say, the easier it is to get in trouble. Don’t be tempted to add something more so that you make things worse.

6. If someone apologizes to you, be gracious and accept it.
It is hard for some people to apologize. Somehow it gets stuck in their craw. If someone apologizes to you, accept it, and move on.

Here are some examples of weak and then revised apologies:

1. I am sorry if what I said hurt your feelings.
Translation: I am not really sorry for what I said, but I am sorry you took it the wrong way.
Revised Apology. I am sorry I hurt your feelings.

2. I am sorry you were offended by what I said.
Translation. I am not saying I am sorry I said it.
Revised Apology. I am sorry I said that. 

3. I am sorry if you misinterpreted my meaning. 
Translation. I am not sorry. You made the mistake.
Revised Apology. I am sorry I said that.

4. I am sorry we had a communication problem.
Translation. It’s mostly your fault.
Revised Apology. I am sorry I misled you.

5. I am sorry that you feel that you need an apology for what I did. 
Translation. I am not really sorry. You are very needy.
Revised Apology: I am sorry for what I said.

Never underestimate the power of an apology. Remember “To forgive is divine.” 

Mary Greenwood, Negotiator, Mediator, Attorney and Author of How To Negotiate LIke A Pro, How to Mediate Like a Pro and How to Interview Like a Pro. Books available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Nook and Kindle.

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