I witnessed a great apology today. At Toastmasters, we are frequently sarcastic and sometimes even caustic with one another (mostly the guys), and today was a light-hearted and enjoyable example of friends getting after one another. It escalated quickly, with one member good-naturedly ribbing another with a direct comment that was laughed at, but probably inappropriate, and could have been hurtful (although I don’t think it was). So where’s the problem? Good friends (especially guys) often rib one another and in some places it is even confirmation that people are comfortable. But in this audience, there were others who might not have been comfortable, and at least one visitor who was just sitting there watching the goings-on in wonder.So the comment was ill-advised. Big deal. It faded as the program started, but the offender found himself speaking shortly thereafter. He suprised everyone and decided to use the floor to apologize.And he did a great job. He stated in no uncertain terms that it was an inappropriate comment and addressed the offended (or not) party directly. A few folks tried to make light of it and claim it was deserved, but he took the high road and said, “No, I shouldn’t have said that.” Plain. Simple. Direct. Fully accepting responsibility.In light of today’s political climate where no one seems to take responsibilty or credit for anything, and athletes use press releases to make mock apologies to regain their sponsorships, it was refreshing to hear such a short, direct, and appropriate apology. Some simple rules for a good apology:
- The scope of the apology should match the scope of the offense (don’t apologize to one when the offense was in front of 100, or vice versa)
- The sooner the apology, the better
- Don’t bring anything into an apology that even hints of an excuse. State the offense and accept that it was wrong.
- Don’t take an offered out — own up.
- Say it once, sincerely, and move on.
Apologies are harder to make than the offenses they supposedly make up for. But done correctly, they can also gain more credibility and respect than the offense can lose.
Make good, sincere, appropriate apologies.