A good apology is a rare and treasured gift.
It’s a treasure for both the giver and the receiver because a true apology includes a transformational moment of empathy. Consider this common workplace challenge:
Someone takes credit for your idea at a meeting. They realize it afterwards, or someone helps them realize it. They decide to apologize. Most apologies are one of three types:
The intent may be good; they want to apologize. But they don’t want to deal with any messy feelings, particularly yours. So they minimize and point out all the logical reasons why you shouldn’t be angry. The effect is, I’m sorry you’re mad, let me explain why you shouldn’t be. It’s better than no apology, but not by much.
Both of the above apologies fail, because the person who was wronged feels unheard.
Then, when you do apologize, ask how the other person felt, and try to name their feelings. Say something like, “I imagine you felt horrible sitting there listening to that happen.”
This critical step – validating the other person’s feelings – is missing from most apologies. Which is a shame because these moments of empathy are the transcendent moments that enable you to move on.
Many apologies are simply an attempt to get the other person to stop being angry or sad. People avoid naming the other person’s emotions hoping they will go away. But the opposite happens. They fester. People are much more willing to let go of hurt and anger when they feel seen and heard.
No one likes to deal with other people’s negative feelings, especially if you were the cause. But the only way out of conflict is through it. If you want to move on, you have to be willing to wade through the muck.
If you want more handling for Dealing with Awkward situations at Work, check out our LinkedIn learning course.