Some people find it almost impossible to apologies. They should try it: not only can it defuse situations, but it can be very therapeutic. Why is it so hard for some people to say sorry when something goes wrong, or service is poor, or quality is lacking? Some service providers even get angry when you offer constructive criticism. Some mangers and CEOs have trouble saying sorry to their people when they put them under too much stress or make a wrong decision. But it’s not that hard.
There are many good reasons why we should say sorry:
- If something has gone wrong, saying sorry is the acknowledgement. It lets people know you have heard and understood them.
- It allows you and the other person to move to a situation of healing.
- Saying sorry actually decreases heart rate, blood pressure and helps breathing normalize.
Why is apologising so difficult?
I don’t know why so many people ignore such an easy thing to do and feel. In a service situation some companies teach staff to avoid saying sorry, believing it is in some way saying you made a mistake or did the wrong thing, and might be accepting a legal liability. People can feel vulnerable of being sued or having a legal action.
Some people just get stuck and can only see their point of view. But when you change and say sorry it has an impact and can change the other person.
There are ways of saying sorry to make the situation better without admitting liability so I don’t agree with companies that teach their people to avoid apologies. Try this: “I’m sorry this happened” or “I’m sorry you are feeling so upset about it”.
But if you have done something wrong – then admit it and apologise. Admitting you’re wrong is hard, and a challenge for many, but is powerful and can even be very therapeutic.
How to apologise:
- Don’t make excuses.
- Don’t offer the cheap, quick, easy apology.
- Don’t rush the apology without being ready to listen to the other person.
- Don’t apologise then do the same thing again.
- Don’t expect everything to be back to normal straight away.
- Do apologise as quickly as possible.
- Do give the person the opportunity to vent their anger.
- Do let the person know you understand why they’re angry.
- Do take corrective action while saying sorry.
If you don’t forgive you’re holding on to a lot of anger and resentment. Try and take the grievance less personally, or look at the offender in a more positive light. Failing to forgive can be very damaging to you both physically and mentally.
Now imagine if every company and every school taught us all the psychology of saying sorry. Imagine if politicians, CEOs, and managers could find it easy to say sorry.
Eve Ash is a psychologist and is managing director of Seven Dimensions, and co-producer with Peter Quarry (Ash.Quarry Productions) of The Psychology of Saying Sorry www.7dimensions.com.au
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