While the holiday season may be calm, peaceful and joyful for some people it is busy, stressful and miserable for other people. It is a time of abundance for both expectations and disappointments, commitments and misunderstandings.
Whether it is with people or in situations, we all say and do things that may hurt or offend certain individuals or be wrong or inappropriate in particular situations. Some people avoid delivering a sincere and heartfelt apology because they either want to sweep the action or situation under the rug or this type of behaviour is so commonplace that they have moved on to their next mistake or blunder. Other people may see an apology as an admission of being weak or wrong when they see themselves as strong and right with every person and in every situation. What all of these people fail to realize is that you can only control yourself and your response to a person or situation but you have no control over the other’s person’s response to you or the situation. You may say or do something with the best of intentions that you are sure will land with ease and may be surprised to learn that it has had the opposite effect.
If you decide on your own or are convinced by one or more people whom you trust and respect that an apology is the only way to clear the air, move forward, resolve the situation or rebuild the relationship then you must plan and deliver your apology. To me, there are two types of apologies: a meaningful apology or a manipulative apology.
A meaningful apology is timely, carefully planned, well thought out and focused on the other person, the receiver of the apology. It is delivered and communicated in a way that works for them not you: a handwritten note, a lengthy phone call, a personal visit or a quick email. The apology must be honest, heartfelt, authentic and abundant. Make sure that the apology is all about them and not about you. The goal is to resolve the situation, rebuild the relationship and have both parties feel like they have learned something valuable and can move forward with ease and confidence. If you deliver a meaningful apology, you will gain the trust, regard and respect of many people and will have the reputation of someone who has integrity, sensitivity and authenticity.
A manipulative apology is also carefully planned and well thought out but it is often delayed and focused on you, the person delivering the apology. Rather than deliver the apology in a way that works for the other person, you will decide on the best way that works for you, most likely a quick email so that you don’t have to waste mental energy composing a note, emotional energy making a phone call or physical energy paying a personal visit. As far as you are concerned the apology is all about you. Your goal is to make sure that it is easy for you and that you do as little as possible to resolve the situation or rebuild the relationship. You want to make it difficult for the other person by making them do all of the work. Whether or not you have learned anything from this experience, you feel eager to just get the apology over with and move on without regret. If you deliver a manipulative apology, you will gain the distrust, disregard and disrespect of many people and will have the reputation of someone who is dishonest, insensitive and phony.
So the next time you find yourself having to deliver an apology for whatever reason, make sure that you are delivering a meaningful rather than a manipulative apology. Your meaningful apology will be well received and long remembered after you deliver it.