We tend not to be good at them.
We tend to force children to mutter them insincerely.
We get in the habit of muttering them insincerely, if we mutter them at all.
The first place I heard an excellent, clear explanation of what an apology should be was in Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture at Carnegie Melon. (To be clear: I wasn’t there; I saw it online.) It was given and recorded in 2008 and the linked video has almost 20 million views. But the one I saw was a reprise on Oprah. It’s much shorter; you can watch it here. (It has a lot of good stuff in it.)
He says (starting at 7:40 in the shorter clip) that a proper apology has three parts:
- I’m sorry.
- It was my fault.
- How do I make it right?
A long time later, I heard an episode of Radiolab that was all about apologies. Legal, religious, secular. The history of apologies. It was fascinating and infuriating and frustrating and well worth the hour. (There’s about 5 minutes of business at the front end that might not interest you.)
But what prompted me to put this out to you today was this article from the Harvard Business Review that a friend texted to me the other day.
Like Pausch’s lecture, it includes three components of a good apology. The three pieces are a little bit different:
- Admit you were wrong and you’re sorry.
- Show them you understand the effect it had on them. (This would be amazing as a receiver.)
- Tell them what you’re going to do differently in the future so it doesn’t happen again.
In the end, with mediation, someone at work apologized to someone else at work for being a jerk, and the man being apologized to broke down and cried. Because he had never been apologized to. For anything.
Part of me finds this hard to believe, but much of me sees life as it is, sees people as they are, sees my own experience, and believes that this is true.
So … own your shit. (This seems to be less and less lately.) Acknowledge it to the appropriate person or people. See what you can do to fix it, whether in the present or in the future. Make the world better by making your connections better.