It takes great character to issue a heartfelt apology. However, apologizing when you are wrong is critical to being a good leader and to being respected by those around you.
Of course, the first step in an authentic apology is the realization that you do, indeed, have something you need to apologize for. Sadly, many people never make it past this step. But, once you do, here are some tips for ensuring your apology rings true with the person you’ve wronged.
1. Apologize right away. As soon as you realize you’ve made a mistake, apologize. When you wait, the person you’ve offended may assume you only finally apologized because they seemed hurt, rather than because you did the wrong thing. In addition, when you’re in no hurry to apologize, it leaves the impression that your wrong is not bothering you.
2. Don’t make excuses. Your apology should never contain the word “but”. When you make an excuse part of your apology, you imply that it wasn’t really your fault. Owning up to your transgressions wholeheartedly shows maturity.
3. Let them know what you’re doing to fix it. If it is possible to fix the situation, do so. Let the person you’ve wronged know what steps you have taken or will take to correct the situation and when.
4. Acknowledge how your action was wrong. If you were rude, say so. If your behavior was insensitive, let the other person know that you know it was insensitive.
5. Don’t apologize if you don’t mean it. If you are insincere, it is usually fairly obvious. If you don’t think you owe someone an apology, then don’t give one.
6. Move on. Once you’ve apologized and corrected the situation, don’t continue to linger in the problem. Neither you nor the person you’ve wronged wants to be constantly reminded of something negative.
The ability to apologize when needed is critical growing as a leader. When you apologize authentically, people recognize that you are human, yet are mature enough to acknowledge your failures. Your sensitivity to the feelings of others only makes you more appealing and respected.