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The Art of the Apology


So I messed up. I messed up big.

I made a mistake with one of my referral partners. I was on the road and jet-lagged and accidentally quoted a wrong (exorbitant) price, delivered a good piece of work at that wrong price, and then was told by my partner that I was “taking advantage” of them.

Gulp. I was in danger of losing a friend and someone who also referred me a lot of business. I felt bad that I messed up. I felt bad that I made the other person feel bad. And I didn’t want to lose this person.

What’s a guy to do?

I apologized…well more like delivered a three layer apology sandwich.

First I had to order the sandwich by making sure we could talk things through over the phone and not through email. There’s nothing worse than miscommunication because one person couldn’t gauge the other’s wit, tone, or inflection of their words.

Second. I had to actually apologize when I got on the phone. I can only take responsibility for my own actions and I can’t hide from it or come up with a lame excuse. Tell the truth.

Third. I had to explain the truth and why what happened, happened. It’s no excuse but it’s not from a malicious or conniving place—it was a mistake. We all make mistakes.

Fourth. I had to offer some kind of remedial action. This is sort of your “I’m giving you roses, flowers, and candy after our fight” kind of thing. In my case, I offered my work for free. I had to. I wanted to keep this person and a friend and I wanted to keep them happy.

Some of the best relationships in the world endure because of open and honest communication, and that includes delivering sincere apologies when you mess up.

Apologies are a must for successful personal and professional relationships. If you take the position that you’re always right or need to appear so, you’ll be sorry you did.

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