Leadership Skills: How to Apologize Effectively

Sometimes politicians get into trouble because of something they say and are forced to resign. I  wonder, was the resignation a result of the controversial remark — or due to the failure to clean up effectively from that faux pas?

I think people would stand a much better chance to be forgiven or to overcome their faux pas if they’d keep in mind the trust-building information for being powerful in any team or in this post – Build Trust With These 4 Easy Steps to Fix Broken Agreements.

Here is a lesson you can learn from other people’s mistakes: when you apologize, do it well — and do it completely.

Don’t just do it half way. It may just backfire on you.

People pay attention to the “feeling/tone” of the message and don’t just check-off whether you have used the correct word (“apology” or “sorry”).

So if you don’t apologize well and completely, it may not land no matter how many times you use the words “apologize” and “sorry.”

To apologize completely means to first understand and acknowledge the mess that you made. Own that mess! Acknowledge it. Say to yourself “I did that!”

Don’t behave as if it didn’t really happen or as if you just slipped. (Or as if you didn’t mean it because your remarks were not carefully prepared. Personally I believe off-the-cuff remarks reveal more truth than do prepared statements).

And don’t use that lame phrase “If you were offended.” Why? Simple, responsible people don’t make iffy apologies — they either own it or they don’t.

“If” in an apology is a subtle move to shift the blame from yourself, the offender, to the offended. “If” implies others were not offended, and those who were not offended are right-minded, leaving the other person who was offended wrong-minded.

So an “if” apology first blames the person to whom you are apologizing for being offended.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip

Think of the last half-apology you made. What would you do different now?

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Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

Posted in Leadership on 12/09/2013 11:51 am
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