We don’t usually consider an apology as a form of winning.  An apology is deemed to be a sign of losing, an indication that we were wrong in some regard and we are conceding. Yes, an apology is usually an admission that we’ve failed to achieve a particular expectation.  The perception of most people is that an apology is an admission of guilt, error, or failure. But what if we saw it differently? What if we used the apology as a means to win?

How you offer an apology can make a difference in:

  • Restoring trust in a relationship
  • Correcting a customer service issue
  • Helping people to be open to alternatives

An apology can be used to create a winning result.

How An Apology Can Lead To Failure

Here is an example of how an apology failed to bring about a positive result. My wife and I were having dinner at an upscale restaurant, and she ordered a bowl of soup that has, in the past, always been a favorite and a safe bet because of a specific allergy. She took one bite, placed the spoon back on the plate, gave me a look of concern, and promptly had a visible reaction to an ingredient. It wasn’t critical, but it was disconcerting. I asked to speak to the manager. He came, pulled up a chair, and listened as I explained our concern about her reaction and identified the specific ingredient that would cause the problem.  I asked if that spice happened to be in the soup.

He politely said: “I’m sorry that your wife has an allergy. We pride ourselves on using only the best ingredients and would not use what you described in our soup. I can see that she is uncomfortable and I’m sorry. I hope your visit with us next time is more to your liking.”

He smiled, stood up, and walked away.

Now, I hope you noticed a few of things. First, the manager did not speak directly to her. Secondly, he didn’t offer to find something else for her to eat. And finally, he assumed we would return.  He missed his opportunity to restore trust, correct an issue, and offer an alternative.

The waiter took the soup away and returned with a bill that had not been adjusted to reflect the uneaten meal.  They expected us to pay for the entire meal.  We won’t be back.

How To Win With An Apology

It may not repair the missed opportunity, but an apology does provide a bridge to cross the chasm of broken trust and disappointment.  When we say “I’m sorry” to those we’ve let down, we are lifting them up by demonstrating that we value them in our lives.  It is the beginning of winning their hearts and minds.  The win won’t be immediate.  It will take time.  However, the fact that we have taken the time to be genuine and accountable will be a sign of good faith.  It is a step in the right direction.

There are times that we make mistakes.  There should never be a time that we let our pride get in the way of our relationships.

Here are four tips for making your apology meaningful.

  1. Be sincere.  No excuses.
  2. Be specific.  Identify the mistake and acknowledge the inconvenience.
  3. Be quick.  Apologize as soon as you can.
  4. Be accountable.  State what you will do to correct or complete the issue.  Then do it immediately.

Win the relationship, and you will begin to win back your reputation.