The Strength Of An Apology

Jan 15, 2014 1 Min Read
a bouquet of roses with a sorry note

We have forgotten the art of making a proper apology. There is no time for this “mushy and gushy” stuff today because there is so much work and key performance indicators (KPIs) to meet.

If people get hurt in the process – then, it is just too bad. We expect others to be mature enough to understand our aggressiveness and if they complain – then, they are not emotionally prepared for pressure in the real world.

Why should someone apologise? It is a sign of weakness.

Consider the consequence of not apologising:

1. What is not apologised for is soon counted as a weakness. If I am consistently late for meetings and do not apologise for it, then others will view it as a habitual trait – something to be expected.

However, if I apologise promptly – then, others see my commitment to change. This is counted to my favour as character strength.

2. What is not apologised for becomes a bitterness “backlog”. An unresolved conflict can always be traced back to an unresolved conversation.

Why are conversations difficult? It’s because no one is willing to come out of their stronghold of pride and arrogance. Every day, the dust beneath the carpet pills up until one day, we trip over this growing pile!

3. What is not apologised for increases the level of misunderstanding. Silence is a strange language that can be interpreted in many ways.

When we are quiet about a burning issue, the other party will view it only to their favour and may even misrepresent us to the detriment of our good reputation.

Herein lays the strength of an apology: The faster the apology is made, the stronger the restoration process will be.

Many talk about the speed of execution – I would rather emphasise the speed of a sincere apology, which in today’s world is so sorely lacking.

Show me a team that is lacking in morale and I will showing you a group of people who is not humble and courageous enough to apologise.

A sincere apology has one important component – a willingness to make restitution. For example, in addition to apologising for being late for the meeting, I will also volunteer to take the minutes for the next session as an indication of my commitment to change.

Constantly check your conscience by asking – “In addition to saying sorry, is there anything else I can do to communicate my commitment to change?”

Do not fall into the danger of waiting for the right feelings to come first before right action is taken.

Go the reverse – do what is right first, then the vibes will come along. Character is about making right choices despite my natural inclinations.

Here are three types of restitution you can take:

1. By giving due recognition. Express praise and gratefulness publicly. Many are bitter because their sacrifices are not recognised and noticed.

2. By meeting felt needs. Identify what the other person is lacking – Is it finances, practical assistance or helpful referrals? Do it willingly for the good of the other.

3. By offering a gift. A gift given in sincerity minimises anger. The reason why presenting a gift is powerful is because you cannot buy something for someone without thinking about the recipient.

We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people – this is the perfect situation for plenty of opportunities for apologies!

Making sincere and humble apologies regularly will only make you stronger – why? This is because every time an apology is made, you understand yourself and others much better and become a better person in the process. Isn’t this what growth is all about? Think about it.

Joseph Tan is a trainer that aims to equip leaders to achieve consistent results at work, at home and in life through the development of personal character and the discovery of unique strengths. If you are interested in attending one of his courses, email people@leaderonomics.com. Click here for more articles like this. 

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Joseph is a Leaderonomics faculty trainer who is passionate about engaging with leaders to transform culture in organisations. Previously, he was CEO of Leaderonomics Good Monday. He is currently based in the United States
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