Apology Accepted

Are you sick of listening to the candidates dance around when confronted by a mistake they made in their pasts? It appears politics is the hotbed of verbal antics.

No one seems to realize the power of honesty. You are only as good as your word. No one will believe or trust you if you play verbal games. Honesty is morally right and efficient. And ultimately, always the best policy.

So when they are caught with their pants down and are backed into a corner, the slippery politicians come up with phony apologies. But, bad apologies are worse than no apology at all. In our personal and professional lives, we wouldn’t stand for this. We wouldn’t let people off the hook with bad apologies. Once your friend, partner, or business associate is caught in a lie or bad apology after the fact, your trust factor is severely reduced!

Saying the words when apologizing is often not enough. For an apology to be acceptable, you have to mean it and show it; and it should contain the 3 Rs:

Responsibility – the person must take responsibility for making the mistake and for having done harm. Admitting you are wrong is the first step in making an acceptable apology. If you live in a world of blame and complain, you are not living in the world of responsibility. Ultimately the truth will come out, so why not save the guilt and loss of trust by admitting your wrong-doing and moving on?

There’s more to an apology than just saying, “I’m sorry.” You need to swallow your pride and say, “I know I messed up.” That’s difficult for most people to admit, because we seem to strive for perfection–that ever unreachable spot on the ever distant horizon. If you truly want to make amends, acknowledge the action you took that may have hurt, humiliated, or disrespected the other person.

Of course, the level of responsibility you take in order to make your apology may vary based on the circumstances. There may be contributing factors from both parties that need to be sorted out before you both can move forward. An example might be that John is always late for meetings, and after the third time finally offers an apology to his boss, Tom. However, if Tom sent an e-mail with the meeting time and it didn’t get to John, there are contributing factors on both sides.

Remorse – they have to sincerely feel badly that their actions caused you pain. How do you demonstrate your regret or remorse for the action that you are apologizing for? First, when you take responsibility and admit your error, the person you harmed will see that you are being sincere. The injured party wants to see that the person apologizing is really sorry for the transgression they committed.

The way you deliver your apology–in person rather than by phone, letter, or e-mail–can also make a difference in the apology being accepted. If you’re apologizing, be straightforward and humble about it. Provide an explanation rather than an excuse, and don’t trivialize the situation by laughing or joking while asking for forgiveness.

You want to show the offended party that you are remorseful about what you have done. Suppose the situation entailed your forgetting to take in your neighbor’s mail while they were on vacation. You may have had good reason, like working long hours at work, or you might have merely forgotten. You would show your remorse by saying how sorry you were, admitting you messed up, and professing that you will do much better next time–if there is one.

Restitution – offer a remedy and take specific action, to right the wrong that’s been perpetrated. Aside from asking for forgiveness, you also need to face the consequences of your actions. If what you did was truly hurtful, make amends and clean up your act. You must demonstrate that you don’t intend to repeat the offense.

The best course would be to follow up the apology with positive action. For example, if you accidentally erased an important file at work, promise to retype the whole document and update your back up system — and then stick to your word. Whatever you do, don’t postpone apologizing. It is most effective when done within a relatively short time of the offending action. Otherwise, you’re living a lie and you’ll create stress on your relationship. Rather than making excuses or being evasive, swallow your pride and offer your apology. Then together, figure out what you can do to make things right between you.

Without these 3 Rs, the politician, friend, business partner, or even you, are not being honest and not being forthright with an apology. If you want to accept an apology and you want your apologies accepted, follow this simple formula.

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