Today’s blog is kind of about etiquette, but really more about graciousness. Twice this week I’ve had occasion to apologise and I received two very different responses to my apologies; it got me thinking about the art of giving and receiving an apology.
My first apology this week was for a typo in an email I sent on behalf of an industry organisation I volunteer with, giving the wrong date for an event, to which I received a scathing response from someone on the database saying that this was “disgraceful” and demonstrated a clear “lack of attention to detail”. Which yes it did, but really did the initial mistake require the level of outrage evident in the response? Or would it have been more gracious for my respondent to merely point out my error and suggest I might like to resend the email with the correct information?
The second apology of the week was in a personal rather than a business context and to my surprise only served to generate in response a general list of things I could be doing better.
So both of these responses started me thinking about apologies…giving and receiving.
I wonder, are you the sort of person who offers and apology but then dilutes it by either making excuses or by deflecting blame on others? For example this type of apology might go something like this… “Sorry I’m late but the traffic was awful and I couldn’t find a park and then I got lost and anyway it’s not really my fault, you should have picked an easier place to meet”.
And if you’re on the receiving end of the apology do you merely smile and say quite genuinely “thank you for your apology”. Or, do you use the apology as an opener to remind the apologiser of the other things that annoy you about him/her?
I maintain that in general, an honest and heartfelt apology warrants nothing more than a little grace from the recipient.
However, if the offending behaviour is chronic trait of the apologiser (or of an unconscionable nature), then perhaps its time to take steps towards addressing it. In order to achieve a more productive outcome my advice would be to do this at another time when you have some distance from the situation and perhaps a little more perspective, or at least have had some time to reflect on what specifically it is about the other’s behaviour or attitude that bothers you so much and what you’d like to be different about the situation or relationship.
How do you deal with “sorry”?