I had lunch the other day with a client and he was telling me that he felt really bad about a situation asked my thoughts. My thought was he should apologize. That is when he told me that it had been about six weeks and maybe it was too late. There is always time to apologize.
If someone has hurt your feelings it is always better to get an apology even if it is delayed.
In a professional setting we can ignore the opinions of others and generally just push through with tunnel vision to get a goal accomplished. In doing so we step on toes and show a measure of disrespect. Although most will not admit to it, but there is a personal connection, a personal feeling of hurt, pain or rejection.
Business is business but under it all it is personal.
Not too long ago I wrote a blog titled Six Steps For a Genuine Apology and oh look – a handy link so you can go read it!
Knowing that you need to, want to and how to apologize is a major step; but a lot of people get bound up by the passage of time. That is what really starts to scare them.
How can I possibly approach them now to apologize?
Easy – show up.
The biggest cop out is to text someone. Bad, bad, BAD! It is like you are saying, “this has been bugging me so I thought I should say I’m sorry but I’m not really sorry enough to actually talk to you.” Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Email isn’t much better, although sometimes it is the only way due to actual distance. It isn’t like you can hop on a plane and travel across the country to show up on their doorstep. However if distance is an issue a phone call would be much preferable.
Hey, it takes guts to pick up that phone but it also lets the other person HEAR the sincerity in your voice. The written word can always be misconstrued. Think about caps lock – most of the time it means you are yelling at someone. You certainly do not want someone to think you are yelling an apology. Poor form.
Pick up the dang phone. Swallow your pride and remember the reason for the call. An apology is needed and you need to deliver it.
Don’t try to avoid the in person delivery by trying to buy your way out of it. Sending flowers or gifts is a cop out if that is your only method. Something in addition to the personal apology is a completely different story, but it is not to be used in place of the real thing. Almost every woman I know hates to get flowers as an apology, we all feel it is a cop out like he is saying, “Here, look at something pretty and forget that I was a butthead” – but getting them because it is Tuesday, now that is a whole different story!
The best apology is delivered in person. This way the other person can see your sincerity and hear it. It is also the scariest tactic of them all, but again, this is not about you.
My client was still pretty nervous about the apology, not in the delivery but in how it would be received. So I told him that there were three possible ways:
- They would accept it and move forward in a positive way.
- They would accept it and still be angry at him.
- They would not accept it and continue to think he was a jackass.
Honestly – it is as simple as that. Those are your options. Think about the worst case scenario and be prepared for it. It can happen but that should not deter you from apologizing. Remember, if you are apologizing then you were in the wrong at some level so it is their right to accept or not.
Once you apologize then cut yourself a little slack. You played grown up and took responsibility and did the right thing to try to make it right. There may be more work to do but at least you can have the solace that you took the first step and that is a big thing.
Apologies are not easy and they are not always a cure-all. Normally they are the first step in a series of thought, actions or events that begin the healing process. Sometimes the process is quick and painless sometimes it is a long, hard road of proving yourself.
Whether you decide to take that path and follow through with it depends on one thing: how much you value the other person. If they, or the relationship is worth it, they you know some time rebuilding is worth the reward or reconnecting.
It all starts with that first step of showing up.
Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.