Frequently Asked Questions:
If I apologize for a mistake, won’t I look weak?
Not at all – that’s an old-fashioned idea that really needs to be put to rest. If you’ve made a mistake you know it, and so does everyone else involved. Apologizing for your mistakes proves that you’re strong enough to be honest about your shortcomings and willing to take responsibility for your actions.
If I make a mistake, how soon should I apologize?
Although it’s tempting – and often a good idea – to apologize as soon as possible after a mistake, it’s usually smart to take a little time first to think things through. Make sure you know what you’ve done wrong, why you’re sorry, what you’re willing to do to make amends, and how you’ll approach the person you’ve offended. Just don’t wait so long to do it that you have to apologize separately for being slow!
What’s the best way to make an apology – in person or in writing?
The best way to apologize is potentially the most intimidating: in person. That gives the other person a real opportunity to tell you what happened from his point of view, which is essential to an effective apology. If you can’t apologize in person for some reason, make a phone call or send a card or note. It’s better to apologize through a less than perfect medium than never to apologize at all
Our company messed up with an important customer who’s threatening to sue, but our lawyers have told us not to apologize. What should we do?
Apologies, if delivered correctly, can go a long way toward preventing lawsuits and restoring business relationships. If your customer sues your company, it’ll be because of your mistake and not because you apologized for it. Talk to your lawyer again about the possibility of apologizing and making amends before your customer drags you into court.
Is it okay to ask for an apology?
Absolutely! If you feel that someone has injured you, it’s much better to ask for an apology than to let bad feelings fester between you.
I apologized to my partner, but she’s still angry. Shouldn’t she forgive me?
Not necessarily. Just saying you’re sorry doesn’t mean you’ve done enough to make amends with your partner, and it’s not fair to expect her to forgive you when she’s still upset. The best apologies turn into conversations – sit down with your partner, tell her again how sorry you are, and ask what you need to do to make things right between you. Then, do it.
My son is angry because I missed his soccer game. Do I have to apologize to him?
You really should. Apologizing to your son will let him know that you love and respect him, and that you care about what’s important to him. It will also show him that responsible adults apologize when they fall short, which is a vital lesson for any child to learn.
Why are public apologies from celebrities and politicians often so bad?
There are lots of ways to botch an apology, and we see them in the media every day. Celebrities tend to make the mistake of thinking a bad situation is all about them, and playing for pity when they should be standing up and taking responsibility for their actions. Politicians tend to play word games, apologizing “if” they’ve offended anyone, which suggests that they aren’t really sorry or interested in making things right. And almost everyone who needs to make a public apology, including large corporations, tends to wait too long to apologize, hoping that a bad situation will blow over when it’s only going to get worse.
What’s the most important thing to remember about apologies?
Sincerity is the key to a successful apology. The person making the apology has to be sincere, and the person receiving it has to believe that it’s sincere. Without sincerity, even the most eloquent apology will fall flat.