Last week I received the second worst apology I’ve ever heard. The first being a few years prior. Both in business.
What is it about apologies and business? One of my clients is internationally known for teaching principles of forgiveness, so if either of these people in these two examples genuinely apologized I would know the steps to take to forgive them. However, the apologies were just so… well, you’ll see what I mean. And perhaps you can relate.
Worst apology #1 came when a woman owed me money for management services as well as mistreated a nonprofit I introduced to her. Her apology was something along the lines of “Sorry but you must have chosen to take that path with me on some spiritual level.” Really? That was her apology. I never received my money. The nonprofit put a ton of work and effort into promoting her and saw nothing in return except for a plug pulled on their fundraiser. I don’t even think she apologized to them at all.
Worst apology #2 came from a client who took some actions she knew went behind my back and against our written agreements. After finding out about these actions, and approaching her, she offered literally a “sorry” followed by the words “but… just… however… although… if…”
What happened to an authentic genuine heartfelt apology? And does anyone even think anymore about what amends they might make to mend the relationship? And why does this seem to happen more in business than with personal relationships?
Or do they think that throwing out a “sorry” will just suffice?
I don’t want this article to sound judgmental. Really I am pondering this. These are sincere questions. And I hope by my sharing these experiences people will think before offering up a 2-syllable word without any true meaning behind it. It is vital for business relationships that when there is a breach of trust, an act of disrespect, a situation that lacks integrity, that something is done about it to bring the relationship back into a state of trust, mutual respect, and integrity.
So, in order to be in solution mode, here is what I came up with…
If you are the one who has decided to apologize for something first contemplate the situation. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. And really feel the effects of your actions. Then offer an authentic apology that focuses on the other person and not yourself. Leave out the ” buts,” “shoulds,” and “I” / “me” vocabulary. And then ask the other person how they are feeling and what you can do to make it up to them, in order to repair the relationship.
If you are the one expected to accept an apology – feel into it. Do you get the genuineness of the person? How are you feeling? Do you feel after their amends that you can go back to having a true business relationship with this person? One idea is to use my client Azim Khamisa’s 3-Step Forgiveness Process:
1. Acknowledge You Have Been Wronged or Hurt
2. Give Up All Resulting Resentment
3. Reach Out In Compassion
And in pondering why these situations tend to happen more in business than in personal life, I suggest we all take a look at how we treat others in business. Is this how you would treat family and friends? Do you come from an “It’s just business” attitude?
I read on American Express’ Open Forum website a fabulous article by Bruna Martinuzzi about this topic. She noted that a company I find brilliant, Starbucks, has the following policy in place for apologizing to upset customers: “Starbucks’ baristas are trained to respond to complaints by Listening (L), Acknowledging (A), Taking Action (T), Thanking (T), and Explaining (E). Note that the emphasis is first on listening and only lastly on explaining what happened.” (And note… it spells LATTE!) Bruna also offers the following The 5-step Apology Process:
1. Say you are sorry.
2. Clearly state what you did wrong.
3. Acknowledge how the receiving party must be feeling.
4. Express your sincere regret.
5. Promise not to repeat the behavior.
It is my hope with this post that if you have something to apologize for in business that you will remember this article. I believe it will transform you, your business, and your relationships.