Ever had a small panic attack because you messed up at the office? Said something stupid, missed a pressing deadline or made a mistake in an important project? The best way to deal with this is to say sorry, and just saying you’re sorry sometimes won’t do the trick.
Why it’s hard
Remember how Elton John sang “sorry seems to be the hardest word”? Well, it is. Apologizing makes you feel small and inadequate, especially to someone you report to. That’s why most people try to give their boss reasons for their mess up, instead of apologizing. By apologizing you validate the feelings of the other, by giving excuses you’re only validating your own feelings. Saying sorry means that you value your (professional) relationship more than you value your own ego. So how do you do it?
Cut the crap
You should explicitly mention what you’re saying sorry for. Be as specific as you can be. It’s humiliating to explain what you did wrong, but it prevents you from accepting too much blame (things you didn’t do), and it shows you’re capable of self-reflection. By specifying the apology, the other party feels you’re taking their feelings and the problem seriously.
Work on improving
Once you’ve delivered your sincerest apology, you need to work on how you’re going to prevent this ever happening again. Saying sorry is good … but it’s better to learn from your mistake and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
That’s it! Easier said than done, I know! Here are some examples:
“I’m sorry I forgot today’s meeting. I know it’s important that we keep each other up to speed, and it’s essential to grow our business. I’ve set a reminder in my calendar so it will never happen again.”
“I’m sorry for my outburst earlier today. It was childish, and I’m very ashamed. I’ve made an appointment with a yoga instructor to help me deal with stress, so this won’t happen again.”
You might find some resistance, depending on the magnitude of your mistake. Maybe you broke someone’s favorite mug, or you messed up a professional relationship that took years to build. Have patience, acknowledge your mistake, and make sure it never happens again. People want to be taken seriously, and to be respected for who they are. This doesn’t only apply to your boss, but everyone around you. You can use these steps for every apology you’ll have to make. But remember that apologizing is a learning moment, and not just a quick fix. It’s like Miranda Hobbs said in SATC: “Don’t do anything to be ‘I’m sorry’ for!”.