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Why the best apology is a change in behaviour

Why the best apology is a change in behaviour

“Im sorry you feel that way”. Its always a bit of a trigger for me.

The sentence obviously includes the most important word but something is missing. Responsibilty. And this missing piece (usually when followed by a list of justifications) jeopardises the possibility for the trust to be rebuilt, the relationship to strengthen or indeed continue. Which applies to our relationships with colleagues, suppliers, customers or consumer services departments of the brands we buy. I remember being taught early on in my career in Marketing that it is not mistakes you make that are the problem but a failure to learn from them, quickly. Holding this belief is the key to successful innovation. And mistakes can actually be an opportunity to build trust if you handle them well – as the truth is consumers and customers will forgive you for almost anything if you can recover brilliantly, in a way that is 100% aligned to what you stand for. But to get to that point you need to admit you made one in the first place.

According to Psychology today the most common cause of failure in an apology–or an apology altogether avoided–is pride. It’s a fear of shame. To apologize, you have to acknowledge that you made a mistake. You have to admit that you failed to live up to values like sensitivity, thoughtfulness, faithfulness, fairness, and honesty. This is an admission that our story about ourself is flawed. To honestly admit what you did and show regret may stir a profound experience of shame, an exposure of weakness. Such an admission is especially difficult to bear when there was some degree of intention behind the wrongdoing.

Its hard to say sorry because it requires us to admit we are not perfect. Which non of us are, and by extension, no company is. Courage is required, humility and whether the relationship between you continues or not (and it may not) it offers a chance to do better going forward with others. That I think, for all of us, is the most important thing of all.

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