The Art of the Apology

November 20, 2009

I wrote a blog but it got ixnayed by legal. (That should be funny because I am “legal.” At this time I shall choose to remain cryptic, but as God is my witness, I’ll publish that blog someday after X, Y, and Z happens). Now, where was I – ah, yes, a new and different blog.

Today, boys and girls, we shall talk about the art of the apology. Since we were little, we’ve been taught to say “sorry.” (Well, most of us, but maybe not he whose names starts with J and ends in O-N-E-S, but I digress again). “Little Johnny, say sorry to your sister for bonking her on the head.” And Little Johnny will usually say sorry to avoid your wrath, rather than actually being sorry for the head bonking. This is the first lesson in the art of the apology – make sure it is sincere and that you mean it. Otherwise, it is really better if you say nothing at all. Maybe wait until it can become sincere, and if it can never become sincere, go back to step one and don’t say anything at all. The Boy often gets in trouble for head bonkings and other various and sundry misdeeds committed upon The Girl. He gets sent to time-out and then is supposed to apologize to The Girl. More often than not The Boy gets extremely defiant and grunts out a “sor-ry” as belligerently as he can. This only serves to piss The Mommy off and gets The Boy in even more trouble. (Can I use that word?) The takeaway on this is that The Boy needs to say sorry like he means it, or not bother getting out of time-out until he can do so. Another example of an apology that is better left unsaid is the disingenuous-apology-that-is-really-not-an-apology apology. Example: “I’m sorry you are an idiot, but….” Go back to time-out!!

Often a simple, sincere heart-felt apology can go a long way towards diffusing a situation that might otherwise result in hurt feelings, anger, and bitterness or, in my world, lawsuits. Maybe a manager loses his/her cool with an employee in one of the many stressful situations we face on a daily basis. When the manager calms down, an apology may be the cure to a situation that might later spiral out of control and explode. Maybe you have two feuding employees – an apology by one or both parties may be all it takes to turn a situation that may have resulted in a termination or two into one in which the working relationship is restored. This might involve a situation with your co-worker, your friend, your spouse or a client. Many times what happens is that we want to be right, rather than do what’s right. A meaningful apology to a client might save a $30,000/month account, but dad gummit, you are right and the client is wrong and they are an idiot and you are not. All of that may be true, but is it worth it? Is it really, really worth it? Is it worth that account? Is it worth that friendship? Is it worth your job? Is it worth that marriage?

Here, let me practice: “Mike, I am sorry you are mean and that I implied your upbringing was nothing less than stellar…..” Alright, alright – I’ll keep practicing.

*Note: This blog was inspired by the esteemed labor and employment lawyer Michael Maslanka and one of his recent blogs at http://texaslawyer.typepad.com/work_matters/2009/10/rudeness-and-resulting-resentment-can-foster-cheating.html, which I forwarded to our managers for their digestion.

I deeply and sincerely apologize in advance for any copyright infringement or any other legal no-no’s in my blog.

Comments

November 20th, 2009 at 12:06pm

Yes you can say that as it was actually a spelling/dictionary term on my 9 year olds homework. I believe it was "Pissed Off" however.

November 20th, 2009 at 2:19pm

I think apologies are the most effective when accompanied by Sam's BBQ, and I am really hungry, I mean offended right now. While the rest of the family is included, I never get mentioned in these blogs. Do the right thing here SL, I await my apology...extra sausage please!

BTW, have they found out you are not really an attorney yet?

December 2nd, 2009 at 4:10am

You know, sometimes, a big account is worth losing. You could turn this around -- if a client is so special they require hand-holding and irrelevant apologies, maybe, just maybe, there's a better $30k/mo client which will take their place without such ruckus. Business is, well, serious business. When it comes down to it, there'll always be "THAT" guy who always requires an apology; he'll furiously go from party to party and never cares why. Even at the parties where people are nice, he's never satisfied and leaves anyways.

You never know though, that guy (or girl) could be someone like Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Steve Ballmer -- not much you can do then -- they'll be on the upside no matter what you do. You just feel bad and that will give them leverage if they need to come back. What you don't know is, they got a better deal and were going to leave anyways.

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Comments

November 20th, 2009 at 12:06pm

Yes you can say that as it was actually a spelling/dictionary term on my 9 year olds homework. I believe it was "Pissed Off" however.

November 20th, 2009 at 2:19pm

I think apologies are the most effective when accompanied by Sam's BBQ, and I am really hungry, I mean offended right now. While the rest of the family is included, I never get mentioned in these blogs. Do the right thing here SL, I await my apology...extra sausage please!

BTW, have they found out you are not really an attorney yet?

December 2nd, 2009 at 4:10am

You know, sometimes, a big account is worth losing. You could turn this around -- if a client is so special they require hand-holding and irrelevant apologies, maybe, just maybe, there's a better $30k/mo client which will take their place without such ruckus. Business is, well, serious business. When it comes down to it, there'll always be "THAT" guy who always requires an apology; he'll furiously go from party to party and never cares why. Even at the parties where people are nice, he's never satisfied and leaves anyways.

You never know though, that guy (or girl) could be someone like Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Steve Ballmer -- not much you can do then -- they'll be on the upside no matter what you do. You just feel bad and that will give them leverage if they need to come back. What you don't know is, they got a better deal and were going to leave anyways.

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