What Ever Happened to Saying “I’m Sorry”? (2024)

Today in business, it seems we hear every word ever invented, along with many words that are not even in the dictionary. The English language is ever expanding. According to Merriam-Webster, we just added more than 1,000 words to the dictionary.

Some of them are, in my estimation, meaningless. “Face-palm,” for instance is a new word added which means, “to cover one’s face with hand as an expression of embarrassment.” If that is not enough, try this one, “Prosopagnosia,” which means. “an inability to recognize faces.” I just did a “face-palm” because I cannot even pronounce “prosopagnosia” in the first place.

Why all this complicated jargon anyway? Is it to simplify my life, or show others around me that I am smarter than I really am? Or could I be labelled a “sesquipedalian,” someone who overuses big words?

All this hurts my head… so no more big words.

As I coach and train businesses, individuals and groups, there are many times that I get to see the “raw” side of business. When things don’t go as planned. Goals are not met or people’s expectations are dashed by reality.

This is a time that no big words can help, nor can trying to invent a word change the outcome. It is a time that we as human beings need to use three of the oldest words ever spoken: “I am sorry.” But who does this anymore? Let’s blame things like the economy, the government, my competition, my boss or my team. Better yet, let’s create a word that can blame everyone all at once and allow me to look outward rather than inward.

If you want to learn how to accept the responsibility when it is indeed something you need to do, here are four things that can help you improve your “I am sorry” to anyone you have harmed, in business or in life. Here is my list:

Make it real. Have you ever watched a child say “I am sorry” and not really mean it? Their posture, tone, facial expression and lack of eye contact tell you a different story than what is coming out of their mouth. Think back to the last time you said you were sorry. How was your posture, tone, facial expression and eye contact during that episode? Were you really sorry, or were you simply mouthing the words to get it over with? If you are going to say you are sorry, most people can tell if you are genuine or if you are being plastic and just going through the motions. How would you like someone coming to you and apologizing in a way that was less than real? Almost makes it worse, doesn’t it? Practice being real and see what happens in your life. Make it real.

Be vulnerable. If you are going to apologize successfully, then plan on being vulnerable. Reveal your weaknesses so that you can work on improving them. The first step in almost every 12-step program is to admit, “I have a problem”. How refreshing it would be if we all started out our day admitting that we have a problem rather than being on the prowl for other people’s problems. I know people and have coached people that could not admit a problem if their life depended on it. In business, it is OK to be vulnerable, especially if you are a leader. In my Amazon best-selling book Growing on Purpose, I talk a lot about how to strengthen the team. Leaders would do themselves a favor by exhibiting the behavior they would like their team to exhibit to each other and to their customers. Be vulnerable.

Take all the blame. Let’s just cut right to it. We hate to take all the blame. If you are only willing to take part of the blame, then you are only going to reap part of the reward. If others around you see that you are willing to take all the blame when it’s all your fault, what do you think this does to the morale of those around you? To never know if someone is going to implicate you and try to “spread the blame” keeps you from being fully engaged in a relationship. And to hold back engagement at work is not a healthy thing, for anyone. If you did something wrong, then take the blame. People are more forgiving that you prefer someone to “fall on their own sword” as opposed to someone who is always swinging that sword to take others down with them. Take all the blame.

Do it quickly. There is no easy time to say “I am sorry,” so just do it as soon as you are aware of it. Waiting for the next staff meeting, or the next time everyone is in the office, dilutes the message. Quickly admitting your fault will strengthen the team around you and give them the freedom to do the same. If your business serves customers, think about when you would want your team to apologize to a customer they have wronged. Do you want them to wait until they see the customer at an event somewhere, or would you want them to pick up the phone immediately and apologize? How you answer this will indicate your willingness to apologize. Do it quickly.

With over 6,500 languages spoken in the world today, it is safe to say that there is a plethora of ways to say “I am sorry.” Take a moment and do some self-examination and ask yourself how you do on these four tips. Keep these handy for the next time that you need to apologize.

Saying “I am sorry” will definitely cleanse your soul… try it sometime!

What Ever Happened to Saying “I’m Sorry”? (2024)


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