The art of the apology

It could have been a big deal, but it wasn’t. Our appointment to discuss our options for diagnosing and treating a potential malignancy had been scheduled with the wrong interventional radiologist.

We had each taken time off from work, picked up copies of records and scans from two offices and the hospital, driven an hour to get there, and then were told by the receptionist that we were there on the wrong day and that she would call us later to reschedule the appointment. By the time we got home, we were both very upset. There was a message on our machine asking that we call the radiology office as soon as possible. Wondering what else could go wrong, we called and were put through to the office manager. “I’m terribly sorry for what happened today. It was our fault, not yours, and I’m meeting with the scheduling staff tomorrow to make sure we fix our system so this doesn’t happen again. I can’t undo the lost time and extra effort, but I spoke to Dr. Betkin about it and he told me to figure out a way to work your appointment in at your earliest convenience and he’ll adjust his schedule. Is there a day that works best for you?” We suggested a time and she said “OK, I’ll make sure that works. And again, I’m terribly sorry for the stress and inconvenience our screw-up caused.” Our anger was totally gone, and we felt comfortable and cared for.

It got me thinking about apologies. In general, there seem to be seven necessary components for the ideal apology:

  • Rapid. It should occur as soon as is possible after the offense or problem is discovered. The longer the gap, the less sincere it feels and less impact it has.
  • Remorse. It should always begin (and probably end) with an unqualified expression of remorse. Simpler is better. “I’m terribly sorry.”  “I apologize.” Body language, tone of voice, eye contact (if in person) and other meta-cues are important. No apology works if delivered with a shrug or smirk.
  • Recognition. It should specify concretely and succinctly what the apology is about. “I’m sorry I didn’t follow through after our discussion.” This is the only way the recipient can judge your understanding of what happened.
  • Responsibility. It should clearly convey ownership of the error and the outcome. “It was my fault.” “Our office missed the boat.” There can be no wiggling here. “I’m sorry about the error. My assistant screwed up.” That just doesn’t work. Even worse: “I’m sorry the book arrived damaged. We do our best, but these things happen.” (“These things happen.” is what the recipient can say when accepting the apology.)
  • Repercussions. When appropriate and possible, there should be over recognition of the impact of the error. “The delay must have caused quite a problem for you.” “I feel terrible that our error ruined your evening.”
  • Restitution. An apology without any offer of restitution can seem empty, and it is almost always possible to offer something without claiming it will make things right. “I can’t do anything about the pictures that were lost, but I’d be happy to have you come in for a free session to take some more.”  One way to offer restitution is by committing to action to prevent a recurrence. “We’re sitting down as a staff next week to review this and work on strategies to prevent it from happening in the future.”
  • Repetition. And repetition (sic). The apology should be bookended, closed with a repeat or rephrase of the opening apology. “Again, I’m really sorry. This should simply not have happened.”

What’s notably absent?

  • Any hint that others (especially the injured party) shares the blame. (”I’m sorry you weren’t seen in a timely manner. Your insurance card was out of date.”)
  • Any deflection. (“I’m sorry you were upset by what happened.”)
  • Any minimizing. (“This never happens.” “Mistakes like this are fortunately very rare.” “At least no serious harm was done.”)
  • Proxies. (If I screw up, I should apologize and not delegate it to someone else.)
  • Multi-tasking. (“Now that we’ve covered that, I’d like to offer you the opportunity to...”)

It’s never easy or fun to apologize. It means acknowledging making an error that caused harm. But a good apology, one that is sincere and direct, is the necessary first step to rebuilding trust and maintaining a healthy partnership.


 

Comments

This is very interesting content! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your points and have come to the conclusion that you are right about many of them. Lucky Patcher

Thank you for sharing such a informative information with us. Keep on sharing the blog like this.

PhD Thesis Writing Services with Online Guidance by PhD Experts

Thanks a lot for a informative post you have given here to us with such a huge collection of valuable information. Great job you have done by sharing them to all. Simply awesome. digital marketing agency hull

I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working, great job! hampton bay lighting

Great article post, I really interesting the way you highlighted some important points. Thanks very much, I appreciate your post ! Tv Portal

This is an extraordinary moving article.I am practically satisfied with your great work.You put truly extremely supportive data. Keep it up. Continue blogging. Hoping to perusing your next post. kinguser

Thanks for the best blog. It was very useful for me.keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. Thanks for sharing the useful information. GTA 5 Online Geld hack

Thanks for sharing this info. I just want to let you know I just check out our site and I find it very interesting and informative. webdesign

Great tips and very easy to understand. This will definitely be very useful for me when I get a chance to start my blog. One Click Root

Thanks for the info, was really nice for me to this post. I will bookmarked your site for future reference. hampton bay lighting company

Great Information sharing .. I am very happy to read this article .. thanks for giving us go through info. Fantastic nice. I appreciate this post..! smm panel

I have read your article, it is very informative and helpful for me. I admire the valuable information you offer in your articles. Thanks for posting it. gta 5 geld cheat

Thanks for sharing this info. I just want to let you know I just check out our site and I find it very interesting and informative.. Cute Things To Say To Your Girlfriend

I personally like your post; you have shared good insights and experiences. Please keep it up. Hampton bay ceiling fans

Thanks for the info, was really nice for me to come across to this post. I will bookmarked your site for future reference. Game Hacking Apps

This was a great and interesting article to read. I have really enjoyed all of this very cool information
Social Digital Marketing agency Pakistan
Socks Manufacturer in pakistan
digital marketing agency pakistan
digital agencies in karachi

You have done a great job. I will definitely dig it and personally recommend to my friends. I am confident they will be benefited from this site. residential Kothi for sale in Chandigarh

I definitely enjoying every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work. diigo

I definitely enjoying every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work. Age Of Empires 3 Cheats

This is an extraordinary post. I like this topic. This site has loads of advantage. I discovered numerous fascinating things from this site. It helps me in numerous ways. Thanks for posting this once more. Packing companies in Dubai

mcoc's picture

Extraordinary substance material and awesome design. Your site merits the majority of the positive input it's been getting.mcoc hack

Thank you very much for writing such an interesting article on this topic. This has really made me think and I hope to read more. شركات كشف تسربات المياه بالدمام

Thank you for such a well written article. It’s full of insightful information and entertaining descriptions. Your point of view is the best among many. happy diwali sms in hindi

I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. GTA 5 Online Geld

Much thanks for composing such a fascinating article on this point. This has truly made me think and I want to peruse more. علاج الادمان من المخدرات

Very interesting blog. A lot of blogs I see these days don’t really provide anything that I’m interested in, but I’m most definitely interested in this one.UK bestessay

Thanks for the best blog. It was very useful for me, keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. Thanks for sharing the useful information. gta 5 geld cheat

This was nice and impressive post i read it and it was incredible thank you so much for sharing this kind of info with us you are so good and amazing with your work. I appreciate that thank you. Judi Togel

It’s great job. I’m confident will be benefited from this site. Thanks for sharing.. http://diwalihindistatus.com

Thanks for taking the time to discuss that, I feel strongly about this and so really like getting to know more on this kind of field. It should be really useful for all of us. Download Es File Explorer Apk

Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article. I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article. Yacht Charter Fethiye

I personally like your post; you have shared good insights and experiences. Please keep it up. Togel Online

I am happy to find this post Very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I Always prefer to read The Quality and glad I found this thing in you post. Milky Way Hair shop

This article is such a pleasant and intriguing one, I'm exceptionally happy with the given substance. I trust more fantastic articles would be posted in your site. Much thanks to you such a great amount for this and continue sharing. website onderhoud

Thank you very much for writing such an interesting article on this topic. This has really made me think and I hope to read more. مركز صيانة ال جى

Thanks for such awesome informative post. you need to visit tech news blog.

I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. therefore, I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. lowprofileceilingfan.net

Such a very useful article. Very interesting to read this article. I would like to thank you for the efforts you had made for writing this awesome article. Entrepo

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts and I am waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.212games

Pages