Saying “I’m Sorry” Gracefully

In anyone’s lifetime they are sooner or later (and quite frequently for some people) going to make a mistake or do something wrong.  We’re human and it is something we just do.  However, saying “I’m sorry” gracefully is not an inborn trait.

Ever hear or say the following instead:  “It wasn’t my fault.”  “I didn’t do it on purpose.”  “It happened because so-and-so showed me the wrong way to do it.”  “It’s your fault for not warning me about it.”  And a million other ways of not having to say, “I’m sorry.  I messed up.  What can I do to fix it?”

This often results in minor or major arguments that do not resolve and become slanging matches and produces hard feelings between people.

How do you deal with this in a practice?

When you make a mistake, no matter what your position in a practice, it is important to take responsibility for it.  It doesn’t make you “all bad” or “wrong” … you simply made an error.  How you deal with it marks the type of person you are.

Someone who is confident about themselves is usually not afraid to say “I made an error” or “I misjudged” or “I should not have done that.”  This type of person usually follows up with an “I’m sorry.  Let me make it right.”  They don’t feel the need to blame or justify why it happened or say how someone else is responsible for their actions, etc.

Some people however are very defensive and scared stiff of being wrong.  Often this is because they have been jumped on so hard in the past by others when they made a mistake that they feel unsafe admitting to a mistake now.

If the person receiving the admission and apology accepts them without making the person wrong, it helps a lot to encourage the defensive person to emerge from that past trauma.  A well-trained executive has to practice receiving admissions and apologies gracefully as well.  It does not help anyone to lay further blame on the person who erred.  Bite your tongue and say “thank you” when someone apologizes to you.

Making it right

Part of an apology is taking fully responsibility for making it right or fixing the resulting bad effect if possible.  A good apology has 3 parts:  1. I’m sorry.  2.  It’s my fault.  3. What can I do to make it right?”

Here are a few quotes from the internet:

“It takes a strong person to say sorry, but a stronger person to show forgiveness.”

“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.”

“I’m not perfect, I make mistakes, I hurt people.  But when I say sorry, I really mean it.”

Trying practising this in your office for smoother relationships!


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