Going from sorry to satisfaction is part of the work of an apology. It can transform a situation that produced a hurtful action or words in a personal or business situation into the potential
to restore a relationship, increase confidence, add revenue and even voluntary offer referrals to new friends and customers. Do you recall the power of public apology used to avoid legal, financial or political penalties?
Apologies pay off because:
1. They are the right thing to do.
2. They are good for the initiator and receiver in the short term.
3. They pay dividends in harmony, peace, good will and even connection to social contacts or to business prospects in the long term due to restoration of balance and order.
Apology as one way to healthy resolution:
The protocol, applied in personal or professional situation, delivered in writing or verbally, yields results. While improvement in interaction may or may not result between the people in the apology equation, an effort must be made for the benefit of all parties, or no one can go on to any positive outcome.
How to proceed in the apology?
Here is one model for the important steps to be taken and why:
Get the facts calmly. Give the other person a chance to voice their anger, frustration or hurt. Try to listen actively and don’t interrupt. This indicates you are taking responsibility and are sincere. Keeping your own emotion in check, keeps you from making a difficult situation worse.
If this is a business situation you might ask questions to make sure you understand what they are saying. Take notes to refer back to and show that you are listening
Respect and recognize the person who feels angry or hurt. A simple “I am sorry this happened to you” goes a long way to diffusing, shrinking or resolving a perceived conflict because it can make a person feel better, instantly.
Mirror back how you think the customer or colleague sees the situation in summary. “I see you are disappointed that your order arrived late.” You can see that feelings are now mixing with ‘just the facts’, in a balanced way.
Often an aggrieved colleague or customer has an idea about how they want a problem resolved. You might also offer choices that you can realistically make good on. Now is not the time for promises you can’t keep so mind your boundaries and actual options.
Can you make finding a solution to satisfy a joint effort? It may take you a few attempts to discuss alternatives before you agree on one.
4. Take action
Help your intention bloom into concrete action. Show appreciation for your customer, colleague or friend’s patience. Act towards improvement in future in the service, response, or sensitivity you hope to provide to meet their expectations.
The above clearly has an eye to servicing customers, in person or in writing, but the principles apply to all communication derailments when an apology is in order.
Heart and Soul
At the heart of a successful apology that encourages better communication is your authenticity.
VIP Your very important apology point is to make it personal. Your authentic response, as soon as is possible, will outweigh the best words and the correctness you can fill in later. Hard copy and proper stationery adds sincerity. Follow up action is key. Defensiveness is not as effective as a straightforward apology, without using the deadly ‘but’ that can backfire. Repeat yourself as needed.
Next time we’ll look at How to complain for constructive results!