One of the first things of social behavior that a parent teaches their child is to say “sorry” if they did something wrong. And while it may be pretty easy for a child to admit their mistakes and apologize, the comfort in admitting our mistakes seems to be fading away as the years pass. In the end, who likes to admit they were wrong?
When cooperating with the same persons for 8 hours per day every day towards a common goal, it is expectable that disagreements and misunderstandings may occur. Adding the stress and the pressure of work to the equation, chances are most of us have behaved rudely or inconsiderately to a colleague at some point of our working routine. But how many times have we apologized at work?
The meaning of an apology
Admitting our mistakes is the root of healthy relationships, according to Psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig. If done properly, apologies demonstrate empathy and understanding and help form stronger connections between two or more people. An apology can also help restore trust and confidence in a relationship that has been damaged by a mistake.
This means that having the ability to apologize is an integral part of any healthy relationship — be it personal or professional. Similarly, failing to apologize when appropriate can cause resentment and animosity, leading to a less friendly environment at the workplace and in everyday life.
5 reasons why apologizing is hard
1. It’s seen as a weakness: For some people, initiating an apology is a sign of vulnerability or loss of power and status. Others think that an apology signifies their incompetence, which makes admitting mistakes so much harder to do. Additionally, admitting fault can be especially challenging in a professional setting where one’s reputation maybe at stake.
2. The fear of rejection: Let’s say you have moved your ego aside and made the decision to apologize. This is probably because the person in front of you is someone important that you want to maintain a good relationship with. But what if this person does not forgive you? This though can be quite unsettling and an adequate reason to keep you from apologizing.
3. Denial is seen as easier: “There is no wrong if you don’t say you are wrong.” This logic is pretty common and some people -normally the ones finding comfort in hiding their problems under the carpet- find it easier to not take the responsibility of admitting their faults. By not taking any such responsibility, a person no longer has to undergo the ‘guilt trip’, which is ‘problem solved’ from their perspective.
4. Not everyone feels comfortable enough to share feelings: The different personality traits mean that some people may find it more difficult than others to express their emotions in words, making it harder for them to craft meaningful apologies.
5. Different perspectives: Sometimes, it is not just difficult to apologize; it is just that people see things differently. The different perspectives result from a difference in experiences, personality traits, current state of life, and many other factors, which often results in a gap between two persons’ understanding of the same issue.
The 3 (wrong) types of a transgressor
1. The “it was just a slip-up” one: “I made one mistake but what about all the other times that I did everything right?”
2. The “understandable” one: “Sorry but I had been so busy at work”
3. The “this is also your fault” one: “If you had tried to understand me, I would not have to lie”.
The right apology: Do’s and Don’ts
|…clearly state what you are sorry for||…make excuses|
|…express regret||…shift blame to other persons/conditions|
|…openly acknowledge the impact of your mistake||…use the word “but”: Anything before “but” in a sentence is like it didn’t exist.|
|…suggest ways to fix the situation||…point the finger at the victim’s fault|
|…be sincere||…force the other person to accept your apology if they do not feel ready to.|
|…apologize in person||…apologize through texting|
|…ask for forgiveness||…be defensive|
Overall, apologizing is an important part of communication in any setting, including in the workplace. First, it helps to resolve any differences and allows people to move on from a negative situation. In addition, it helps repair relationships when there are disagreements or misunderstandings.
In the longer term, this attitude can make up an organizational culture of psychological safety, where people feel safer to express their thoughts and feelings, are more open and are able to restore relationships and rebuild trust.
It is important to remember that when apologizing you are taking responsibility for your actions and showing respect for the other person’s feelings. It takes a self-assured and open-minded person to admit when they are wrong. And sometimes, making things right is more important than being right.
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