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Monday, October 11, 2010

Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.

When was the last time you apologized for making a mistake or for being selfish to the point that someone else bore some unpleasant consequences for your thoughtlessness?

It happens all the time in daily life and in the workplace.

The measure of a professional is how well and how truly he/she apologizes for making a mistake or for causing someone else an inconvenience.

The good news is that we all make mistakes and must, sooner or later, apologize to someone.

In this way, we all share the same burden to know how to apologize well--and what it looks and sounds like when someone doesn't mean what the word "Sorry" says.

I read this apology quite often.  It is an all-purpose word that supposedly covers a multitude of infractions.

It means:  I'm sorry I asked you urgently for help, but when you gave it at midnight, I didn't see your response for a week because I forgot to check my e-mail.

It means:  I forgot to do my job and this caused a ripple effect down the hierarchical ladder, a domino effect that created more work and confusion for more than just you:  Sorry.

When there is no definite explanation for what you are apologizing for, chances are you are only paying lip service to what is expected of you.  People know that.  People take note of that.  No one will tell you that people are drawing conclusions about you from the way that you run over them with your personal ambitions, calling over you shoulder "Sorry" that feels to you like enough--but it's not enough for other people to excuse your action, or ideally, to forgive that misdeed.  And that needs to happen.  It needs to happen because people in a workplace environment need to get along with one another, and they can only do that when the scales of justice are in accord:  all the apologies that need to be said have been said.

Reconsider how you feel about apologizing and what you hope to accomplish.  If you are just getting the apology out of the way by saying one word or even a sentence fragment like "sorry about that" know that people who understand what an apology is supposed to accomplish and what a sincere one means also know what a casual, insincere one represents.

It means you aren't sorry at all.


  1. I agree that it is always better to say that you're sorry when you have done something wrong. By doing this, you are admitting that you are, in fact, a human being and that you are capable of making common mistakes that happen to everyone sooner or later. In most cases, people will have a greater respect for you when you confess your faults and they will feel more comfortable working with you.

  2. It always a repsectful thing to say you're sorry when you are in the wrong.It shows that you are mature and accountable for your mistake. There is no shame is admitting a mistake,it just shows you can handle being wrong.

  3. Many people know that they should apologize, but don't particularly know how to apologize. I believe that an effective apologizes leaves no questions to be asked by the person you are apologizing to. I agree that just saying "sorry' isn't enough. It comes off as insincere or forced.