We all make mistakes, personally and professionally. It’s ok to admit it to yourself – if you haven’t made one yet professionally, you will eventually. Obviously, some mistakes are bigger than others, but a mistake is a mistake and when you make one, you should apologize. It’s the first step in moving past your mistake and recovering.
However, think back to when your sibling apologized for kicking you only because mom was standing right there and threatening a punishment – did it mean anything to you? Probably not. You need to mean it. So how do you get across that you do?
First of all – actually mean it. It’s harder to apologize if you hang on to feeling indignant or cornered. If you are in a situation where you need to apologize, the first thing you need to do if you don’t already feel sincere is come to terms with the fact that an apology is necessary and why. Doing this will help you figure out how to empathize with the people you are apologizing to and make your delivery more sincere.
What do people look for in an apology? If you stop and think about it, you already know the answer to this because you certainly expect something out of an apology when some is saying they are sorry to you. If you want people to believe you, you need to believe yourself.
Your tone is important. Admit your mistake, say you are sorry and be personal about it. Nothing turns people off like a corporate apology that sounds like your lawyer pieced it together for you.
How you deliver your apology is important too. If you offended someone in person, then you should apologize to them in person. Similarly, if your organization got into a tiff on Facebook, you need to say you are sorry on Facebook or the audience that needs to hear it may not.
And then, follow it up with action! If your co-worker apologizes to you for stealing your desert out of the shared fridge and then does it again next week, I sincerely doubt you’d be ok with that. If fact, you’re likely to immediately think the previous week’s apology was insincere and get even more upset. The same thing goes for professional apologies.
Mean it before you say it; say it with sincerity, say it to the right people; and act differently to prove you mean it!